|Scorecard:||India v Australia|
Rain unfortunately spoiled what would have been a cracking end to a marvelous, twisting and turning 2nd Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy Series between India and Australia in Chennai. Going into the last day, India needed 210 runs with all their second innings wickets in hand. Australia had the services of new record Test wicket holder Shane Warne (537) on a 5th day pitch. The match was on a knife's edge and could have gone either way after at least five major twists throughout the first four days. As it was, with no play possible on the fifth day, the match ended in a draw. Australia held on to their 1-0 series lead, with the carnival moving to Nagpur for the next match.
At lunch on the first day, this match seemed anything but cracking, especially from an Indian point of view. Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden led Australia to 111/0 at lunch on their way to a 136 run opening stand, their 12th opening century partnership in 63 innings. Only West Indies' Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes (16--in 148 innings) and England's Herbert Sutcliffe and Jack Hobbes (15--in 38 innings) had more. But from this point, Australia collapsed to 235 all out, Anil Kumble being the main destroyer, with 7/48 in just over 17 overs. Kumble n this match increased his total Test wickets to 415, passing Pakistan's Wasim Akram and moving into 7th place on the all time list. An interesting feature of this innings was that three Australians (stand in captain Adam Gilchrist, Jason Gillespie, and Michael Kasprowicz) walked without waiting for an umpire's decision, something that was anathema to the Australian team under the captaincy of Steve Waugh.
India responded by taking a 141 run lead (376), partly on the back of Virender Sehwag's wonderful, if at times risky 155. Perhaps even more important was the fighting 102 run 7th wicket partnership of Mohammad Kaif and Parthiv Patel, which took India from 233/6 (directly after Sehwag was dismissed) to 335/7. The Australians had clawed their way back into the match with Sehwag's dismissal. As the graph shows, had either Kaif or Patel been dismissed cheaply, the plateau built by Sehwag (principally with a 95 run third wicket partnership with Rahul Dravid, but also with a 55 run second wicket partnership with night watchman Irfan Pathan), might have been the only plateau of the innings, and Australia might have escaped with only a 25-50 run deficit. The second plateau put India in command of the match. India was able to force two rare occurrences upon the Aussie attack, a successful night watchman, and a big late wicket partnership. The innings was notable for the fact that Yuvraj Singh also sportingly walked, and Pathan became Shane Warne's 533rd victim, moving him ahead of Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan back into first place in Test wickets taken in a career.
If Australia were knocked back by the fighting quality of the Indian innings, the opening partnership of Langer and Hayden didn't show it, putting on 53 for the first wicket (their third 50 run partnership in four innings). From there, however, they stumbled to 145/4, with Jason Gillespie joining Damien Martyn for the last few balls of the third day. At the end of that day, Australia were 150/4, with a 9 run overall lead. India slept that night with the sweet dreams of chasing something around 100-150 on the next day. However, it was not to be. Australia put together a tremendous 139 run partnership for the 5th wicket (see below). For the second time a big partnership featuring a night watchman had helped turn the match around. Again, the graph shows the effect of this partnership, transforming an innings that might have flat lined to around 200-250, to one that was jolted to a menacing 369.
The Indians showed their intent by putting on 19 runs in the last three overs of the day, leaving them 210 to get, and the Australian attack to go through on a wearing fifth day Chidambaram pitch that had never seen an Indian run chase of more than 155 (to beat the Australians by 2 wickets in March of 2001). Either team might have fancied their chances. But rain had the final say. In this context, it turned out that the Martyn-Gillespie partnership was a fighting rearguard that saved the match for Australia.
And so the Australians, with some rainy intervention, were able to hold on to their advantage in this series.
This graph is a simple over by over rendering of the three hundred run partnerships around which the match turned. These were not the only important partnerships, but they were the biggest. The Langer-Hayden partnership was a typical bucanneering partnership by these two, putting on 136 in 33.1 overs, a breathtaking rate of over four per over in a bit over a session. These types of partnerships are designed to break the back of the opposition at the beginning of a match, and but for the great work of Anil Kumble, might have done so.
The Kaif-Patel partnership came just after the Australians had clawed their way back into the match, with India at 233/6. Graphically, this partnership shows aggressive intent that is tempered with some solid defense (the flat segments are maidens--compare their number with Langer-Hayden). While Kaif-Patel ended up 34 runs short of Langer-Hayden, they took 6.3 more overs, doing "just what the doctor ordered" given the context of the match. They took their time, going at about 3.4 runs per over, to help India to a sizable lead.
At 150/4 Martyn-Gillespie were under tremendous pressure. In essence, Australia were 9/4 with only one recognized batsman (Darren Lehmann) to come. (It is true that Shane Warne is capable of batting, but to call him a recognized batsman might stretch credibility). Given that context, the Martyn-Gillespie partnership is amazing, Much of the first half of the partnership consisted of obdurate, almost New Zealand-like defence. It was only when the bowlers began to tire that this partnership accelerated, eventually not only saving the match, but leaving open the possibility of an Australian victory. While the Langer-Hayden partnership was classically Australian (in the Waugh era anyway), Martyn-Gillespie was something else again. It showed that they had learned from their awful experiences at Kolkata in March 2001 and Adelaide in December 2004. As a result, more pressure is on India than Australia in the second half of this series.
Sources for this article:
Trevor Marshallsea--Sydney Morning Herald
Sanjay Rajan--The Hindu (Chennai)
Anand Vasu--Wisden Cricinfo
Wisden Cricinfo ball by ball commentary
(Article: Copyright © 2004 Jack Solock)