WTC Final Day 2: India's response to Australia's 469 in shambles

London: The fascinating thing about cricket is its uncertainty. “That’s the cricket,” as legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev used to say to explain the mysterious swings and roundabouts of the game. Team India, down and out on the opening day, clawed its way back in somewhat on the second, an Indian summer’s day with a high of 22 Celsius and the sun beating down on a pitch with more bounce and carry than on Day 1.

The qualitative difference between the Indian and Australian attacks was that of better direction at a fuller length with classy inswingers cutting into the Indian top order. With Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara not offering shots after Rohit missed one that tilted in, the response to Australia’s 469 was a bit of a shambles. “That’s Test cricket,” one could very well say to take off on Kapil’s summary of the game.

The assurance with which Rohit and Gill set India on the long haul promised much only to be sliced open by the cleverly disguised deliveries zeroing in on the stumps from wide if off stump. Outswingers may tempt the best of batters but indippers have a way of trapping them in front or scattering their stumps. And when Kohli went, unable to fend off a kicker from Mitchell Starc that threatened face and body, India was in a deep hole. One could say it’ the same old story when Team India is playing the big games.

The problem for Team India was that the balance between bat and ball seemed to differ depending on whether its two best seamers Md Shami and Md Siraj were bowling, or their support pace men. They got the early breaks that tilted the scales back a bit, with century makers Travis Head and Steve Smith, the obsessive occupier of the batting crease, back in the hutch with young Cameron Green falling in between to a great ball and even better catch in the slips.

The shouts of “Jeetega Bhai Jeetaga, India Jeetega,” had more timbre to them among an audience of whom there were about 8 of Indian origin in every 10 of the 18,000 or so who can sit in some comfort at this ancient cricket venue with modern amenities now. And yet Australia, seizing the moment after digging in and playing stodgy Test cricket for two sessions of Day 1, exploited Indian bowling weaknesses to pile on the runs post-tea on Wednesday and consolidated its position on Day 2 with Alex Carey carrying them to a very respectable total, not gigantic but more than useful in a ground with long boundaries.

Regardless of how clumsy he may make it all seem with his gestures and his eccentric mannerisms, Smith is one of those committed Test match players who believes in occupation of the crease, reminding all of the old saying of John Milton sagacity that “even they serve who only stand and wait”. Of course, Smith did much more than that, with the occasional drive splendidly executed, to make his 31st Test century before chopping on a widish and short ball from a striving Shardul Thakur who has this knack of picking up wickets in surprising fashion.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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