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India can take heart from the draw

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BREATHING FIRE: Ishant Sharma was the pick of the bowlers in the Bangalore Test.
BREATHING FIRE: Ishant Sharma was the pick of the bowlers in the Bangalore Test.

S. Dinakar

Teams likely to change strategies in Mohali

Bangalore: Considering that India lost the toss on a pitch of variable bounce and cracks, the host will take much heart from a draw in the first Test. The experience of the Indian batsmen came to the fore on the final day, but they were also helped by the lack of quality spinners in the Australian squad and the fading light.

The conditions in Mohali could assist the pacemen more, at least in the early stages of the day, and the bounce is likely to be truer. The teams are likely to change their strategies accordingly.

Usual slip cordon

The Aussies could rely more on a traditional slip cordon than the strangulating single-saving fields that one witnessed at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

In the first Test at least, the world champion did not display the consistent intensity which is required to win Test matches. The Indians were not complaining, not least the lower order batsmen.

Much of the credit for India getting bailed out of trouble should go to Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh for their feisty batting displays in the first innings. Zaheer, who displayed great commitment, bowled with control and craft as well. Harbhajan’s off-spin compelled attention in the second innings.

The lanky Ishant Sharma, though, was the bowler of the Test for India. His ability to switch lines effortlessly was the most engaging aspect of his bowling.

Australia has major spin worries. Indeed, a Shane Warne could have made life hard for the Indian batsmen on the final day. Cameron White is an honest trier, but no match-winner.

Michael Clarke can break partnerships but not influence the course of matches. Jason Krejza, the off-spinner in the squad, is no more than ordinary.

Pace is the key

To triumph in the series, Australia would have to rely on pace. Brett Lee was good in spells, but not consistently threatening in Bangalore.

Mitchell Johnson’s swing, cut and the ability to reverse add teeth to the Aussie attack. And Shane Watson is an excellent support paceman with speed and bounce.

Staurt Clark disappointed. The three-quarter length that is so successful in Australia does not quite provide the results in India. When the great Glenn McGrath tormented the Indian batsmen in Australia’s winning campaign here in 2004, he did so by extensive use of the good and the full length balls.

In that series, McGrath struck using swing as well as cut. Clark’s methods are similar to that of McGrath, but then the ‘Pigeon’ had this ability — with a combination of high-arm action, height and excellent wrist and seam position — to extract bounce from virtually any surface.

The Aussies have greater depth in the pace bowling front with Doug Bollinger and Peter Siddle being worthy contenders.

Quality batsmanship

Ponting’s century in the first innings will ease the batting worries for Australia. The Punter’s use of the width of the crease — the heart of quality batsmanship — and his reworked methods against Harbhajan augur well for the visiting side. While Simon Katich was tenacious, the Aussies will seek runs from Matthew Hayden. Hayden should be more comfortable in Mohali, where the bounce should be more predictable. Michael Hussey brings solidity to the middle-order but the Aussies will like to see Clarke, a fine player of spin with sparkling footwork, to be among the runs.

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