Australia v India, 1st Test, Melbourne, 1st day December 26, 2011

Not a bad first day for poor starters

It was a day when both teams' weaker suits - Australia's batting and India's bowling - came face to face, and India didn't come out looking out of place
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On long hard tours, you need days when you are not at your best but come out unscathed. India had one of those days today. It is not to say that India didn't create opportunities, but there were also spells where they lacked inspiration.

In England every such day left them with scars. On the contrary, here they have the opposition at 6 for 277 after they had chosen to bat first on a slow track that had its moments, a bit like the India attack. It's a score India can be happy about after a wayward middle session when they dished up too many short deliveries. It's also a score that will irk them after they had had Australia down at 6 for 214. It's a score the significance of which depends a lot on how their bowlers, fresh on the second morning, do with a ball that is only nine overs old.

This wasn't a day of the spectacular for India. Zaheer Khan operated within himself in the first spell, letting debutant Ed Cowan leave a lot of balls, at the same time troubling the more adventurous David Warner. He was ordinary in the second spell, bowling bouncers to Ricky Ponting at gentle pace, but the thing about Zaheer is, you cannot feel sure about him until he has bowled his last over of the day. His burst late in the day, when he got the ball to move away from Michael Clarke, from round the stumps, with a 64-over old ball, following it up with two wickets in two deliveries, was reminiscent of the World Cup tie against England where he turned an ordinary night around in two overs. The absence of the Decision Review System notwithstanding, that 65th over was acknowledged later by Cowan too.

Umesh Yadav is fast emerging as an impact bowler. He can go for runs because he bowls quick and attacks the stumps, but he can produce wicket-taking deliveries purely with his pace. These are early days in Yadav's career, but the signs are good. Today he was the first to break the non-violence pact between the bowlers and openers. He was the first bowler Cowan and Warner took on. He was the first to make inroads.

Two balls after Warner had dismissively pulled him over midwicket for a six, Yadav came back with a quicker bouncer, beating the batsman for pace. That is a rare sight for an India quick, and it came in front of 70,000. That ended a 46-run first-wicket stand, but the pricklier partnership was the one for the third wicket, worth 113, when Australia could sense they were running away. Back came Yadav, from the Members End this time, and had a well-settled Ponting inside three deliveries. Again it was pace and bounce that left Ponting uncertain, and pace and slight seam that took the edge.

Facing the press after the day, Yadav seemed more nervous in front of about 30 people than when he worked Ponting out in front of 70,000. He said he tried to bowl fuller than he does in India, and he would have preferred to go for fewer runs. Ishant Sharma went for fewer, and not through defence. He actually was the pick of the India bowlers, pulling Australia back after runs flowed uncontrollably in the second session. He bowled with most control, and looked the most threatening. That he got no wickets keeps in with the script of the day.

India still had a chance to come out of the first day as clear leaders after that Zaheer burst, but MS Dhoni welcomed Brad Haddin with a long-on, deep midwicket, and fine leg, a field setting that suggests 5 for 400 and not 5 for 205. Haddin and Peter Siddle got the space to breathe, and ensured not a wicket fell for 21.5 overs. The criticism of such captaincy is obvious, but these moves are not thoughtless.

India's is a four-man attack, it was a long day, and in such situations at 6 for 214, Dhoni prefers to come back at 6 for 260 as opposed to 8 for 310 in an attempt to bowl them out for 250. That's how modern captains work, and we aren't exactly running out of time in Tests nowadays. The bowlers will be fresh on the second morning, the ball still new, and India will have a second bite at the cherry.

It was a day when both teams' weaker suits - Australia's batting and India's bowling - came face to face, and India didn't come out looking out of place. For a side notorious for poor first days, India would have taken 6 for 277 with all six specialist batsmen gone had you offered them that at the start.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shan156 on December 27, 2011, 1:25 GMT

    I watched couple of Umesh Yadav spells yesterday and I ought to say that it looks like India have found a really good pace bowler. The Warner wicket came courtesy of a good bouncer and the delivery that got him Ponting's wicket was a real beauty. He was a little off color today but he is young and will learn. No idea why Indian fans hype ordinary bowlers like Sharma instead of bright young talents like Umesh. Of course, I learn that Sharma was one such prospect on his last tour here but quickly went off the boil and now looks very ordinary. Hope, for India's sake, that Umesh doesn't go the same way.

  • Naresh28 on December 27, 2011, 1:05 GMT

    Ishant bowled well without any wickets. I feel he needs to use his head and setup his dismissals like Zaks does.The sooner Ishant gets into wicket taking mode the better for India in this series. Zaks, Ashwin and Yadav have been great.

  • andrew-schulz on December 27, 2011, 0:49 GMT

    Fascinating call on Dhoni's tactics. Do captains not realize that you are giving away easy runs by adopting defensive field settings. Haddin was ultra-cautious, and could have been really throttled by more intelligent field settings. How can you say it is more likely to bowl a side out for 250 from 6 fro 214 if you go all defensive? At any rate, you are not going to bowl them out for 250 if you have then 6 for 260. Baffling.

  • bustermove on December 26, 2011, 23:54 GMT

    I understand your concern Nampally that, " It was a pity that Haddin's LBW( looked plumb) off ZAK was disallowed," but perhaps Haddin wouldn't have even been batting if there weren't 2 incorrect decisions made earlier. Not complaining about the standard of the umpiring....they were difficult calls (the catches that is) At first glance I would have given both of them out as well. Maybe you should have a talk to the BBCI and MS Dhoni about using the DRS. It is breathtaking that Indian cricket can continue to be blind to the benefits of DRS and even more breathtaking that the ICC allows them to run the show on this issue. It isn't perfect by any means, but it is a lot closer to perfect than what happened yesterday. Sure, I agree that often things "even out" over the course of a series without the DRS, but I can recall plenty of close series where the final result may have gone the other way if incorrect decisions were allowed to be challenged.

  • OhhhMattyMatty on December 26, 2011, 23:40 GMT

    Yadav is more expensive than a trip to Harrods! England are licking their lips!

  • disco_bob on December 26, 2011, 22:53 GMT

    When we were still debating DRS, decisions like the Hussey howler and Cowan's dismissal would just be hypothetical. However now that DRS is established, used, tested and approved of, the Hussey and Cowan dismissals are not hypothetical any longer in the sense that we all know that they would have been reversed if the BCCI were not allowed to ruin cricket for the fans. Probably depriving Cowan of a deserved 100 at least. It's likely that Haddin's non dismissal would not even be an issue as he wouldn't have been batting most likely. It's a sad day for cricket that fans who want to see a fair contest will be hoping for equally bad game changing decisions against the Indians.

  • wehateCricket on December 26, 2011, 21:50 GMT

    poor starters?? what is the meaning of poor starters?

  • Big_Poppa_94 on December 26, 2011, 20:05 GMT

    I'm listening to Alice in Chains. Epic Team India will conjure up some magic, like the magical Layne Staley.

  • Nampally on December 26, 2011, 19:44 GMT

    India again failed to run thru' the tail. Haddin & Siddle in a 63 run 7th wicket stand is a clear indication of failure to finish the job. Yadev did a great job in getting the first 3 wkts. when frustration was setting in. But Ishant failed to take any wkts. despite accurate bowling & all the hype. ZAK came back strongly late in the day to take 2 wkts. in 2 balls. It was a pity that Haddin's LBW( looked plumb) off ZAK was disallowed. But the worst was Dhoni's decision to remove ZAK from the attack & put Ashwin to give away unnecessary runs - a no-brainer!. What was Dhoni thinking? This was really the turning point of the match. Had India got the Aussies for <250, it would have given India a chance to clinch the match. But with a total >300, this game is likely heading for draw - unless in an unlikely scenario of India getting >500 in the first innings. On the other hand, if India do not bat well they can lose. The expectation is India will get around 350 to 400.

  • HarishVS on December 26, 2011, 18:19 GMT

    This is absolutely a letter by letter precise observation on the day's play and the two teams. No single piece of these comments can be termed as out of place in this article. Made a very interesting reading than the day's play itself.

  • Shan156 on December 27, 2011, 1:25 GMT

    I watched couple of Umesh Yadav spells yesterday and I ought to say that it looks like India have found a really good pace bowler. The Warner wicket came courtesy of a good bouncer and the delivery that got him Ponting's wicket was a real beauty. He was a little off color today but he is young and will learn. No idea why Indian fans hype ordinary bowlers like Sharma instead of bright young talents like Umesh. Of course, I learn that Sharma was one such prospect on his last tour here but quickly went off the boil and now looks very ordinary. Hope, for India's sake, that Umesh doesn't go the same way.

  • Naresh28 on December 27, 2011, 1:05 GMT

    Ishant bowled well without any wickets. I feel he needs to use his head and setup his dismissals like Zaks does.The sooner Ishant gets into wicket taking mode the better for India in this series. Zaks, Ashwin and Yadav have been great.

  • andrew-schulz on December 27, 2011, 0:49 GMT

    Fascinating call on Dhoni's tactics. Do captains not realize that you are giving away easy runs by adopting defensive field settings. Haddin was ultra-cautious, and could have been really throttled by more intelligent field settings. How can you say it is more likely to bowl a side out for 250 from 6 fro 214 if you go all defensive? At any rate, you are not going to bowl them out for 250 if you have then 6 for 260. Baffling.

  • bustermove on December 26, 2011, 23:54 GMT

    I understand your concern Nampally that, " It was a pity that Haddin's LBW( looked plumb) off ZAK was disallowed," but perhaps Haddin wouldn't have even been batting if there weren't 2 incorrect decisions made earlier. Not complaining about the standard of the umpiring....they were difficult calls (the catches that is) At first glance I would have given both of them out as well. Maybe you should have a talk to the BBCI and MS Dhoni about using the DRS. It is breathtaking that Indian cricket can continue to be blind to the benefits of DRS and even more breathtaking that the ICC allows them to run the show on this issue. It isn't perfect by any means, but it is a lot closer to perfect than what happened yesterday. Sure, I agree that often things "even out" over the course of a series without the DRS, but I can recall plenty of close series where the final result may have gone the other way if incorrect decisions were allowed to be challenged.

  • OhhhMattyMatty on December 26, 2011, 23:40 GMT

    Yadav is more expensive than a trip to Harrods! England are licking their lips!

  • disco_bob on December 26, 2011, 22:53 GMT

    When we were still debating DRS, decisions like the Hussey howler and Cowan's dismissal would just be hypothetical. However now that DRS is established, used, tested and approved of, the Hussey and Cowan dismissals are not hypothetical any longer in the sense that we all know that they would have been reversed if the BCCI were not allowed to ruin cricket for the fans. Probably depriving Cowan of a deserved 100 at least. It's likely that Haddin's non dismissal would not even be an issue as he wouldn't have been batting most likely. It's a sad day for cricket that fans who want to see a fair contest will be hoping for equally bad game changing decisions against the Indians.

  • wehateCricket on December 26, 2011, 21:50 GMT

    poor starters?? what is the meaning of poor starters?

  • Big_Poppa_94 on December 26, 2011, 20:05 GMT

    I'm listening to Alice in Chains. Epic Team India will conjure up some magic, like the magical Layne Staley.

  • Nampally on December 26, 2011, 19:44 GMT

    India again failed to run thru' the tail. Haddin & Siddle in a 63 run 7th wicket stand is a clear indication of failure to finish the job. Yadev did a great job in getting the first 3 wkts. when frustration was setting in. But Ishant failed to take any wkts. despite accurate bowling & all the hype. ZAK came back strongly late in the day to take 2 wkts. in 2 balls. It was a pity that Haddin's LBW( looked plumb) off ZAK was disallowed. But the worst was Dhoni's decision to remove ZAK from the attack & put Ashwin to give away unnecessary runs - a no-brainer!. What was Dhoni thinking? This was really the turning point of the match. Had India got the Aussies for <250, it would have given India a chance to clinch the match. But with a total >300, this game is likely heading for draw - unless in an unlikely scenario of India getting >500 in the first innings. On the other hand, if India do not bat well they can lose. The expectation is India will get around 350 to 400.

  • HarishVS on December 26, 2011, 18:19 GMT

    This is absolutely a letter by letter precise observation on the day's play and the two teams. No single piece of these comments can be termed as out of place in this article. Made a very interesting reading than the day's play itself.

  • on December 26, 2011, 17:56 GMT

    A mixed day in my opinion. Zaheer lacked pace, understandable since he is returning from a long break. Yadav was wayward, too many short/leg side balls dished out. The standout aspect of India's bowling was the lack of consistency in maintaining line-length. Four good deliveries were followed by a pressure releasing one which would yield a two or a boundary. Ed Cowan was only too happy to leave the deliveries outside the off and the bowlers didn't make him play enough. Ponting I think played very well. He looked like he could go on and on. My gut feeling is a score of ~370 might be too much for India. This is the first match and the Aus bowlers are not that bad. Would love to be proved wrong though!

  • on December 26, 2011, 17:03 GMT

    Good to see the year ending with yet another Emerging Geniune Fast Bolwer making his ground..and this time from India . After Cummins , Philander and Tremlett , its nice to see an Indian in the list...Just hope Yadav looks after him well and keeps coming back on the opposition with pace,bounce and seam movement.

  • on December 26, 2011, 16:41 GMT

    Though Yadav & Zak got wickets, Ishant bowled the best and less wayward than all the other three. He was just plain unlucky. Ashwin was the most inconsistent, with his frequent short length deliveries and leg stump line and leg side wides. Of course, one shouldn't forget that this is the first test in Oz for Ashwin. Being the studious type, he will learn fast, and most probably, we would see the results in this test itself. Yadav didn't look a rookie at all, though he got occasionally carried away with the kind of pitch he rarely gets in India! He will also learn, when to and how to use bouncers; and also batsmen specific strategies. Was a little surprised he feeding into Ponting's favorite zones. But overall, the bowling unit's performance was better than expectations.

  • asdf_zxc2 on December 26, 2011, 16:20 GMT

    Now we have got some material for the world to see that the Indian pace bank has to offer. May be v r less in number than that of Australia, England or South Africa but with the experienced support of Zaheer Khan India can and will emerge as a great bowling unit.BCCI should hand over projects to the local team management in the bureaucratic order to scout of the next umesh, aaron or even david johnson. India's problem lies in relying too much on ranji leagues to pick the performers for the indian team.What about those who miss out on showcasing their talent because of financial trouble.dont they deserve to run for the blue jersey?We have enough time to mould the aarons and yadavs of india to lead the pace attack for the 2015 world cup just like zaheer did.v may only see him watching the match from the VIPs area by that time.So pull your socks BCCI.BTW where is Valthaty??????Wasnt his entry confirmed in the Indian team?Hope another talent is not wasted like kaif and jaffer were.Amen

  • on December 26, 2011, 15:52 GMT

    Sidharth, your writing is like Dhoni- very calm and cool but always productive. Always love reading your articles/commentary. As you are at MCG, I suggest you to maximum cover those things which aren't seen by TV viewers.

  • on December 26, 2011, 15:24 GMT

    The defense of Dhoni's move to ease off the pressure when Oz was 6 down is ridiculous. This is a script we are all too familiar with - opposition 6 down with little on the board tells you that your bowlers have struck good rhythm and you should continue to play in the same vein with controlled aggression! If a captain thinks he is being street smart by spreading the field for the recognized batsman to get the other batsman on strike, it just doesn't work especially overseas & with today's tail-enders who can can bat a bit. The top order batsman can just knock the ball for easy runs, bowlers lose rhythm trying to get someone out for just 2-3 balls in the over. India has good not great bowlers, they need positive, thoughtful captaincy to make them better than they are. Art of captaincy is much more than just staying calm and keeping it simple - you need to have a plan B & C, develop strategies for the opposition and always back your bowlers! MSD is an average captain, India can do better

  • anuajm on December 26, 2011, 15:17 GMT

    Good day for Indian bowlers, but another wicket and it would have been India's session completely!! The best part was all the bowlers looked threatning and looking like taking wickets through most part of the day, unlike the past when Bhajji and another 1-2 would trundle in and bowl harmlessly. Initially i was happy when Hussey and Cowan were given out ( SCG '08 test is still fresh) but then i guess DRS would have helped. Its unfair on batman to get out when they should not have!! Might end a player's career (read Hussey). The best part was when Ganguly asked Shastri what he think of DRS now and Shastri has no clue what to answer. No criticism of the decisions, no remorse of the wrong ones handed to the Aussies!! He plainly said - "I am ok if humans make error but not technology"!! But he needs to understand that DRS is firstly to remove absolute howlers, and secondly the errors are still made by the umpires aided by technology!!

  • on December 26, 2011, 14:56 GMT

    Hope there's no bowling coach lurking in the shadows to advise Yadav to bowl line and length! It would seem that bowling coaches in India are almost afraid if a young fast bowler bowls full tilt. I'll be praying for Yadav.

  • on December 26, 2011, 14:53 GMT

    I have a feeling Sid's enthusiasm is a bit misplaced regarding India "not having a bad day".Agreed Indian bowlers did OK but under these conditions any side should be dismissed for below 275.Aus may well score into 300s and India may have to play catch up for the remaining days.Zaheer is coming back from injury and will take time to be back in rhythm.Umesh ofcourse has been a real find and hope he does not cut down on pace following any stupid advice from any unwanted quarters.Ishant and Aswin bowled well and India's fortunes remain for how long these four will last as a unit.(should get better with each innings).Indian batsmen too will take time to adjust and 350 in the first innings could be a match winning total for Australia.Indian bowlers looked listless at times and that may cost them this match.But as i said earlier they should get better with each outing and if our players remain fit we should have a good series.60-40 chance for Aus to win this match at the end of Day1.Bet?

  • rahulcricket007 on December 26, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    i really don't like these field settings by dhoni for lower order batsmen . i saw this at trentbridge , capetown & now mcg . somebody from dressing room or onfield senior players like dravid , laxman should give advice to dhoni .

  • baskar_guha on December 26, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    India should play with five bowlers with the batting prowess they have. That will allow the likes of Zaheer to have a few 2-3 over bursts instead of trying to pace themselves over 5-6 overs per spell and thus be less effective.

  • Zahidsaltin on December 26, 2011, 13:07 GMT

    This Australian batting form or ability is at par with Bangladesh, Nz and Wi. India, even with its week bowling will win this series 3-1

  • on December 26, 2011, 13:01 GMT

    Except for the 2nd session Indians bowled pretty well. So many times Warner was beaten in the first innings and Zaheer was unlucky not to get a plumb LBW in the last session. All the 4 bowlers did well and it is a welcome sign. I still don't understand why India doesn't take a 5th bowler given the strength of the middle order and the batting prowess of Ashwin and Zak in the lower order. I would like a Aaron or Mithun to join the pace squadron and try to bowl the opposition out and reduce risk of insuries to Zak and Ishant.

  • datewithdestiny on December 26, 2011, 12:53 GMT

    Sidharth.. We all know Dhoni is superman.. But it might be beyond him to start a day at 260 for 6 and have a team bowled out for 250..

  • ravi_hari on December 26, 2011, 12:51 GMT

    Definitely India has got more than anyone expected. Atleast 1 wkt more than they would have planned, especially when Ponting and Cowan were batting. That extra wkt was gifted by the umpire is a different thing. First timers Umesh and Ashwin impressed and Zaheer showed why he is a class act. Yet, this is not the best day for India. On a green top, under overcast conditions and rain stopping play more than once, any other team including NZ would have performed better. Australia would be happy to lose only 6 wkts. and are close to 300. 325 to 350 should be a good score if the conditions remain the same the next 4 days. If the pitch and weather dry up in the next 2 days it would be like batting in the sub-continent and everyone knows who are the kings there. Having spent the whole day, Aussies have given themselves a chance to either force a win or draw. Indians have to bat really well tomorrow and Wednesday to take a sizeable lead and force a win. It is 50-50 right now. Anyone can win.

  • N.Sundararajan on December 26, 2011, 12:41 GMT

    Siddharth

    You are largely right---except you did not mention that India would do well to learn from the first day's faults---like poor length in the first session, some wayward lines from Ishant, lack of aggression when the Australian chips were down etc----the desire is that at the end of the second day, India should aim to dominate the Test and have it under control---because it is expected to be India's batting "supermight" against the rookies of the Australian bowling ! For the Indian fan, as always, "Hope springs eternal in the Indian hearts" ! Better luck tomorrow for a better peformance --- India !

  • on December 26, 2011, 12:30 GMT

    yadav is exiting prospect

  • Y2SJ on December 26, 2011, 12:21 GMT

    Dhoni misses a strike spinner like Kumble. With the old ball being bowled after 6th wicket on a pitch with bounce, Kumble would have got a couple of wickets or atleast made batting tough for Haddin. Hope Indian bowlers clean up the tail tomorrow quick.

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  • Y2SJ on December 26, 2011, 12:21 GMT

    Dhoni misses a strike spinner like Kumble. With the old ball being bowled after 6th wicket on a pitch with bounce, Kumble would have got a couple of wickets or atleast made batting tough for Haddin. Hope Indian bowlers clean up the tail tomorrow quick.

  • on December 26, 2011, 12:30 GMT

    yadav is exiting prospect

  • N.Sundararajan on December 26, 2011, 12:41 GMT

    Siddharth

    You are largely right---except you did not mention that India would do well to learn from the first day's faults---like poor length in the first session, some wayward lines from Ishant, lack of aggression when the Australian chips were down etc----the desire is that at the end of the second day, India should aim to dominate the Test and have it under control---because it is expected to be India's batting "supermight" against the rookies of the Australian bowling ! For the Indian fan, as always, "Hope springs eternal in the Indian hearts" ! Better luck tomorrow for a better peformance --- India !

  • ravi_hari on December 26, 2011, 12:51 GMT

    Definitely India has got more than anyone expected. Atleast 1 wkt more than they would have planned, especially when Ponting and Cowan were batting. That extra wkt was gifted by the umpire is a different thing. First timers Umesh and Ashwin impressed and Zaheer showed why he is a class act. Yet, this is not the best day for India. On a green top, under overcast conditions and rain stopping play more than once, any other team including NZ would have performed better. Australia would be happy to lose only 6 wkts. and are close to 300. 325 to 350 should be a good score if the conditions remain the same the next 4 days. If the pitch and weather dry up in the next 2 days it would be like batting in the sub-continent and everyone knows who are the kings there. Having spent the whole day, Aussies have given themselves a chance to either force a win or draw. Indians have to bat really well tomorrow and Wednesday to take a sizeable lead and force a win. It is 50-50 right now. Anyone can win.

  • datewithdestiny on December 26, 2011, 12:53 GMT

    Sidharth.. We all know Dhoni is superman.. But it might be beyond him to start a day at 260 for 6 and have a team bowled out for 250..

  • on December 26, 2011, 13:01 GMT

    Except for the 2nd session Indians bowled pretty well. So many times Warner was beaten in the first innings and Zaheer was unlucky not to get a plumb LBW in the last session. All the 4 bowlers did well and it is a welcome sign. I still don't understand why India doesn't take a 5th bowler given the strength of the middle order and the batting prowess of Ashwin and Zak in the lower order. I would like a Aaron or Mithun to join the pace squadron and try to bowl the opposition out and reduce risk of insuries to Zak and Ishant.

  • Zahidsaltin on December 26, 2011, 13:07 GMT

    This Australian batting form or ability is at par with Bangladesh, Nz and Wi. India, even with its week bowling will win this series 3-1

  • baskar_guha on December 26, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    India should play with five bowlers with the batting prowess they have. That will allow the likes of Zaheer to have a few 2-3 over bursts instead of trying to pace themselves over 5-6 overs per spell and thus be less effective.

  • rahulcricket007 on December 26, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    i really don't like these field settings by dhoni for lower order batsmen . i saw this at trentbridge , capetown & now mcg . somebody from dressing room or onfield senior players like dravid , laxman should give advice to dhoni .

  • on December 26, 2011, 14:53 GMT

    I have a feeling Sid's enthusiasm is a bit misplaced regarding India "not having a bad day".Agreed Indian bowlers did OK but under these conditions any side should be dismissed for below 275.Aus may well score into 300s and India may have to play catch up for the remaining days.Zaheer is coming back from injury and will take time to be back in rhythm.Umesh ofcourse has been a real find and hope he does not cut down on pace following any stupid advice from any unwanted quarters.Ishant and Aswin bowled well and India's fortunes remain for how long these four will last as a unit.(should get better with each innings).Indian batsmen too will take time to adjust and 350 in the first innings could be a match winning total for Australia.Indian bowlers looked listless at times and that may cost them this match.But as i said earlier they should get better with each outing and if our players remain fit we should have a good series.60-40 chance for Aus to win this match at the end of Day1.Bet?