Tendulkar falls 14 short of Lara’s record; useful contributions from Laxman and Ganguly
Bangalore: On a day of some determined batting, cloud cover and stoppages, the first Test concluded in a draw at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Monday.
Sachin Tendulkar fell 14 runs short of equalling Brian Lara’s record for the highest run-getter in Tests, but his fighting innings contributed to India salvaging a draw on a pitch of variable bounce.
Like Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman used the width of the crease well, played forward whenever necessary, and brought his feet and wrist into play. Sourav Ganguly once again showed resolve.
Bravely set a target of 299 in a minimum of 83 overs, India was 177 for four in 73 overs when bad light finally ended the match — the conditions for the series do not permit the use of artificial lights. On a pitch with visible cracks, a draw was the only viable option for India.
Zaheer Khan was adjudged Man of the Match.
There were two stoppages, for 39 and 22 minutes, after tea and Ricky Ponting could not bring on his quicker bowlers when play resumed. He did not have the resources in spin either.
India has suffered two Test match defeats this year — in Australia and Sri Lanka — with its batting crumbling on the last day. On this occasion, three partnerships, 53 in 18.1 overs between Gautam Gambhir and Tendulkar, 61 in 25.4 overs between Tendulkar and Laxman, and an unbeaten 39 in 20.4 overs between Laxman and Ganguly, baulked Australia.
In a moment that left the crowd disappointed, Tendulkar (49, 126b, 4x4) failed to keep a drive off leg-spinner Cameron White down and was held at short cover. On this pitch, there was always the chance of the odd drive being miscued.
Then, Laxman (42 not out, 142b, 5x4) and Ganguly (26 not out, 68b, 2x4) displayed calmness of mind in a pressure situation.
There were roughs on both sides of the wicket and a splitting delivery from White did take off the dark patch outside the off-stump to beat Tendulkar’s outstretched blade and bounce over Matthew Hayden at slip.
White did send down the odd top-spinner along with a few probing leg-spinners but could not display the consistency required. Left-armer Michael Clarke, thrust into the role of a front-line spinner, was unable to bother a bunch of skilful Indian batsmen.
He rightly went over-the-wicket to probe Ganguly from the rough outside the left-hander’s off-stump. The right-hander can kick away deliveries spinning into him from this area but the left-hander may find it hard to cope with deliveries jumping into him from the rough. However, Clarke did not land the ball in the right areas.
Australia’s declaration after just 30 minutes and five overs of batting — the side gathered 35 runs during the period — threw light on its aggressive mind-set. Irrespective of the nature of the surface, Ponting would have weighed his options against the Virender Sehwag factor.
Sehwag was put down early by ’keeper Brad Haddin when Brett Lee shaped the ball away from the right-hander. Would Sehwag make the Aussies pay?
Sehwag didn’t and was a touch unlucky to find the ball travelling off the outside edge to Hayden at slip when he attempted to work Stuart Clark on the leg-side.
It was a smart catch by Hayden, considering he would have been partially blinded. For once, Sehwag’s bat speed, normally his strength, proved his undoing.
Clark bowled better in the second innings, but Ponting could have considered opening with left-arm swing bowler Mitchell Johnson along with Lee under a cloud cover.
The conditions assisted swing and Johnson moves the ball in the air. Clark, apart from being at least a couple of yards slower, is more of a seam bowler. Here, hitting the deck and the three-quarters length may not be a rewarding exercise with the new ball.
Apart from greater speed and swing, Johnson would have provided greater variety to the new ball pairing with the left-armer’s angle.
When he was introduced, Johnson’s change of pace and a fuller length speared through a well-set Gambhir’s defence.
Ponting, though, did a huge favour to his side when he plucked a sensational diving catch — the flying skipper was parallel to the ground — at short mid-wicket when Rahul Dravid uppishly flicked an incoming delivery from Lee.
The Test was high on tactics and execution but failed to throw up a winner.
Australia — 1st innings: 430
India — 1st innings: 360
Australia — 2nd innings: M. Hayden lbw b Zaheer 13, S. Katich c Laxman b Harbhajan 34, R. Ponting c Laxman b Ishant 17, M. Hussey b Harbhajan 31, M. Clarke c Sehwag b Ishant 6, S. Watson b Ishant 41, B. Haddin (not out) 35, C. White (not out) 18; Extras: (b-13, lb-10, w-6, nb-4) 33; Total: (for six wkts in 73 overs) 228.
Fall of wickets: 1-21 (Hayden), 2-49 (Ponting), 3-99 (Katich), 4-115 (Clarke), 5-128 (Hussey), 6-203 (Watson).
India bowling: Zaheer 17-4-46-1, Ishant 14-3-40-3, Harbhajan 27-5-76-2, Sehwag 7-1-12-0, Kumble 8-0-31-0.
India — 2nd innings: G. Gambhir b Johnson 29, V. Sehwag c Hayden b Clark 6, R. Dravid c Ponting b Lee 5, S. Tendulkar c Clarke b White 49, V.V.S. Laxman (not out) 42, S. Ganguly (not out) 26; Extras: (b-16, lb-3, nb-1) 20; Total: (for four wkts in 73 overs) 177.
Fall of wickets: 1-16 (Sehwag), 2-24 (Dravid), 3-77 (Gambhir), 4-138 (Tendulkar).
Australia bowling: Lee 11-3-26-1, Clark 11-6-12-1, Watson 5-0-8-0, Johnson 8-3-23-1, Clarke 20-7-40-0, White 18-4-49-1.