Applying constant pressure worked, says Siddle
Peter Siddle is confident Australia's pace attack can stay on top of India's experienced batting line-up if they maintain the constant pressure they built up in the first Test in Melbourne. Together Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and the Man of the Match, James Pattinson, entered the Test with 160 Test wickets to their names, and bowled against an Indian side with a world-record aggregate of 53,560 Test runs, including the two highest Test run-scorers of all time: Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.
That none of India's batsmen scored a half-century in the fourth innings of the match, when they were chasing 292, was a credit to Australia's bowlers, who sent down enough bouncers to keep the batsmen guessing, but generally worked on consistently probing lengths. Siddle said a lack of footwork by some of India's batsmen showed their plans had paid off.
"I think it's probably the pressure we built that was a bit of the cause of that," Siddle said. "The short bowling to give them a bit of pressure, get them mixed up, that paid off at the start. That helps with giving them a problem in terms of moving their feet. It can go either way, but I think the pressure that we built up from both ends consistently helped."
Siddle finished with match figures of 6 for 105 at the MCG and in both innings picked up the wicket of Tendulkar, who top scored in the first with 73 and in the second with 32. Tendulkar was the first man Siddle ever dismissed in Test cricket, on debut in Mohali in 2008, and he has now claimed his wicket three times from the only two Tests in which he has bowled to Tendulkar.
"Both dismissals [in Melbourne] were totally different, one was bowled and the other one was caught, it was a bit wider," Siddle said. "There's no big secret to it. I was lucky enough that I bowled a couple of good balls before that and put a bit of pressure on and got the wicket. It just comes down to being patient. As a unit, we've done that. We've stuck together well, we've bowled long spells and been consistent and that's how we got most of our wickets."
All three of the fast men maintained that pressure and were rewarded. Pattinson collected 6 for 108 and his delivery that sneaked through the defence of Rahul Dravid in the second innings was a key moment as India's chase faltered. Siddle said Pattinson, his club-mate at Dandenong, brought energy to the side and helped lift his team-mates in the field with his passion and aggression.
"I've grown up with him. I've known him since he was nine or ten. He's like a little brother. It's amazing to be able to play with him, and to play in a Boxing Day Test at home, home crowd and all that, it was a great pleasure to be out there and just to watch the way he goes about it. He's vibrant, he loves getting out there, he's excited. To play alongside him and see both of us going well at the moment is good."
The other member of the pace attack, Hilfenhaus, managed his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket, and must have been strongly considered for the Man-of-the-Match award, picking up 7 for 114 in the game. He was rewarded for rebuilding his action during the winter; he now bowls from wider on the crease, swings the ball later and has clearly improved after an Ashes campaign last summer in which he took only seven wickets.
"I hadn't actually seen him too much [since the Ashes] until this match," Siddle said. "The way he came out and played and to get his first five-for was outstanding. It's always been a key to his game, but the consistency with his lines and the pressure he builds from that one end was amazing.
"To bowl into the wind, he always gets the hard jobs. But the effort in pushing up into that breeze the whole match and building the pressure from that end, it did help me and Jimmy from the other end. We could have quick bursts and try and bowl fast. That paid off in the end."
There is a slim chance the trio might be joined by Ryan Harris in the Sydney Test, which begins on January 3, after he was named in the 12-man squad. However, the offspinner Nathan Lyon is expected to hold on to his spot as Australia are usually reluctant to enter a Sydney Test without a spinner, although it might be something they consider in the third Test in Perth.
"It can go both ways," Siddle said about going in with four quicks. "I've played in times like Perth [in the Ashes last year] where it's worked well and then I played in The Oval Test match when it didn't work well for us. It can go either way. It just depends on the day, it depends what the selectors are thinking at the time. There's still a lot of time left to look at the wicket before we know which way we'll go."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo