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India vs Aus: One man’s masterstroke,another man’s blunder

Wrong 'un: Opening with spin works for M S Dhoni,flops for Shane Watson.

Written by Siddhartha Sharma | New Delhi |
March 25, 2013 1:20:48 am

No eyebrows were raised when the Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni threw the new ball to offie R Ashwin at the start of the second innings. Him replacing pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar with left-arm orthodox Ravindra Jadeja too wasn’t a surprise move. With the Indian spinners troubling the Australian openers all through the series,it was an expected tactic.

As if inspired or maybe as a last throw of the dice,Shane Watson too adopted the same tactic when India were chasing 154 for victory in the fourth innings. There was natural variation from the surface and the Aussie spinners had accounted for 8 Indian wickets in the first innings,and Watson certainly had his reasons to hold back the pacers. But he discounted a couple of important factors: his spinners didn’t have the guile and variety of a spin department that had Ashwin,Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha; plus,Cheteshwar Pujara,Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli were far more skilled to survive and thrive on a crumbling track.

And that’s why Nathan Lyon,who bowled with the new ball,started with ten runs in the first over when Vijay swept him for two boundaries. From the other end,Glenn Maxwell did get Vijay when the score was 19,but his inconsistent line and length wasn’t helping Australia’s cause in defending a modest total.

Pujara too jumped out and caressed Maxwell through the cover for a boundary in the second over of the innings. Once Vijay left in the fourth over,Kohli,who got trapped by Lyon in the first innings for one,started with a positive mindset and made sure that the scoreboard kept ticking. In the next 21 overs,Kohli and Pujara put up 104 runs. This bit of statistics made it clear that the Indian batsmen had won their battle against the Aussie spinners and also the mind game over the new captain.

Strategic error

Watson during the post-match conference admitted that keeping in mind how the Indian spinners were getting spin and bounce,he was hopeful that both Lyon and Maxwell could play a crucial role. They would have,in case they had stuck to the line and length the Indian spinners bowled.

Lyon pitched it a lot fuller and was milked by Pujara on the leg side for singles. Maxwell too wasn’t disciplined. Comparing Lyon’s and Maxwell’s economy rate in both the innings,they have conceded runs at 4.63,4.90 in the second as compared to 4.02 and 3 per over in the first. Ashwin went at 1.67 and 3.54,while Jadeja went at 1.37 and 3.62.

Had these spinners put a check on India’s run flow,there could have been a chance for Australia to stretch the proceedings. After Kohli departed for 41,India lost two quick wickets in Tendulkar and Rahane but the hosts were comfortably placed by then. As Pujara kept the momentum high,Lyon too got impatient and started bowling it short,upon which the batsman hit him for boundaries either side.

Bowling from around the wicket with no cover or point,Maxwell kept sending it down outside off-stump. His pitch map shows that he wasn’t able to control the angle and was pitching it wide and fuller on the off. For Pujara,that turned out to the scoring opportunities. Many a time Pujara even jumped towards off and played on the leg side. The reason why Ashwin and Jadeja got success with the new ball was that they bowled within the stumps and made the Aussies play. The visitors haven’t got it right in the second innings. With the ball spinning and off a length,none of the Australian bowlers could make an impact.

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