Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 1st day January 3, 2012

Australia on top after day full of wickets


Australia 3 for 116 (Clarke 47*, Ponting 44*, Zaheer 3-26) trail India 191 (Dhoni 57*, Pattinson 4-43, Hilfenhaus 3-51, Siddle 3-55) by 75 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

In the 129 years since the SCG hosted its first Test, batsmen's lives have been made infinitely easier. Pitches are now covered. Boundaries have been shortened by ropes. Helmets have allowed batsmen to hook with impunity, and they do so with heavier bats. It is to the credit of the bowlers that the contest between bat and ball remains gripping. So it was on the first day of this match, as James Pattinson and his Australian colleagues, and then Zaheer Khan for India, dominated proceedings.

By stumps on the opening day of the SCG's hundredth Test, 13 wickets had tumbled - more than the 11 that fell on the first day of Test cricket at the ground back in 1882. India's captain MS Dhoni chose to bat on a pitch that featured some grass, but his batsmen didn't back him up. Dhoni was the only man to score a half-century in India's innings of 191, which ended soon after tea, and it was the wrong way for India to start a Test in which they needed victory to retain a chance of winning the series.

Briefly, and surprisingly, their total appeared competitive, for Australia's inexperienced top order wobbled to 3 for 37 against the swing of Zaheer. But through Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting, Australia wrested back the advantage. At stumps, their partnership had grown to 79, Australia's score was 3 for 116, and Ponting (44 not out) and Clarke (47 not out) both looked in ominous form.

Things could easily have gone badly wrong for Australia after Zaheer's early strikes. David Warner edged in the first over of the innings, the catch snapped up by Sachin Tendulkar at first slip after it bounced out of the hands of VVS Laxman at second. In Zaheer's next over, his first ball caught the edge of Shaun Marsh's bat and was taken by Laxman, placing Zaheer on a hat-trick.

It continued a disappointing return to Test cricket for Marsh, whose golden duck followed 0 and 3 in the Melbourne Test. This time he played limply at a ball he should have left alone, returning the favour from earlier the day, when Laxman fell to a similarly poor stroke that was edged to Marsh in the cordon. Both men would be happy with their catches, neither with their choice of shot.

Zaheer's hat-trick ball was negotiated by Ponting, but a few overs later the opener Ed Cowan became Zaheer's third wicket, trapped lbw for 16 to a ball that struck him just in line with off stump. It was a fine spell of bowling from Zaheer, but the partnership of Clarke and Ponting, both of whom played some fine pulls late in the day, gave Australia a strong chance of a first-innings lead.

But as India showed in their first innings, good starts from two men don't necessarily mean anything. Dhoni finished unbeaten on 57 and Tendulkar, searching for his hundredth international hundred in the SCG's hundredth Test, made a confident 41 but a distinct lack of support from the rest of the batting order cost India dearly.

Again, they were beaten by an excellent bowling performance from Australia's three fast men, Pattinson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle, who between them collected all ten wickets. Watching the strongly-built Pattinson bound in and attack some of the world's best batsmen, it is easy to forget how inexperienced he is - this was the first time he had played a first-class match at the SCG.

He betrayed no nerves and struck in the first over of the Test: his third ball pitched on leg and nipped away from Gautam Gambhir, who edged to first slip for a duck that continued his slump. It was tough going early on for India's batsmen and Rahul Dravid departed for 5 off 33 deliveries when he inside-edged onto his leg off Siddle and was taken by Cowan at short leg.

That brought Tendulkar to the crease to a standing ovation, as is the case in every innings he plays these days, and he played some wonderful cover-drives as Siddle bowled full, seeking an edge. But while Tendulkar was calm and classy, his partner Virender Sehwag never looked completely settled.

There were a few typical Sehwag flashes and he was lucky not to be caught at second slip on 23 when he edged Hilfenhaus and Ponting put down a simple chance, and a Siddle offcutter beat the bat and sailed over the stumps. Sehwag's luck ran out on 30 when he got a regulation edge behind off the outswing of Pattinson, who had returned for another spell and bowled full and fast to test the batsmen.

It was precisely that sort of delivery that Pattinson used to get rid of Laxman (2), a man who has tormented Australia over the years, especially at the SCG, where his Test average before today was 96.20. Laxman didn't move his feet and wafted at a drive before he was well set - but it was Pattinson's outswing that ensured the edge behind.

That left India at 4 for 72 at lunch, and although Tendulkar and Virat Kohli steadied and batted solidly in the half hour after the break, the wickets again started to fall. Kohli was done in by Siddle's aggression - two bouncers were followed by a fuller outswinger and the batsman didn't move his feet well enough, edging behind for 23.

Soon afterwards, Pattinson picked up the huge wicket of Tendulkar, who had looked good in his 41 but played on when he tried to drive a fullish ball wide of off stump. A ton of tons would have to wait. R Ashwin and Dhoni steadied the innings with a 54-run stand but in the last over before tea, Ashwin (20) edged to slip and off the next ball Zaheer fended a catch to short leg to put Hilfenhaus on a hat-trick.

After tea, Ishant Sharma survived the hat-trick ball but few more - he also gloved a well-directed Hilfenhaus bouncer to short leg. Siddle finished the innings by having Umesh Yadav caught behind for a duck off a full outswinger - India's last three batsmen all made ducks. Australia's lower order showed in Melbourne how important late runs can be; India may rue their tail's inability to stick around and support Dhoni, who ran out of partners.

His decision to bat was sound, but much of India's batting was not. Their chances might now rest with the bowlers.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prachi on January 6, 2012, 8:17 GMT

    @Paullie - which team perform in both formats currently? I don't know of any. When did I say India was no 1? Its you people that have it in your heads that India is no1 just because India has won a World Cup after ages. Had Eng or runners-up SL won it, would you all have reacted the same way? No! Any other team would've deserved the win or respect or whatever you want to call it but not India. I was merely pointing out that comparing WC with tests by certain people is pathetic. Tests require different MINDSET than WC pressure does so by winning WC does not make you no1. There's a difference between World Dominance like past Aus used to have. Cricinfo please publish.

  • Salman on January 4, 2012, 20:29 GMT

    Indian: if we have Superman, batman, spiderman and captain planet instead of Laxman, dravid, gambhir and Ishanat so we wcan beat australia easily.... Guys give us break. At least you should admire all of your team and need to support your team as recently they won the WC almost with same team, however WC was surely politize by BCCi and IPL... Anyway who are saying, they are lions of home so i am very much sure that we(pak) or SL will beat them very easily in their home grounds ;) probably BNGl will draw too :p

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2012, 19:19 GMT

    There is nothing left to comment except waiting for the disaster to strike on 4thor 5th Day ,if not on 3rd itself! SreedharanMundanat

  • John on January 4, 2012, 14:30 GMT

    @brittop on (January 03 2012, 23:38 PM GMT) - Nice one. Was trying to think of English examples but the only ones I thought of from recent years were Sidebottoms and Broads and both the sons would have played a considerable time apart etc and Arnie only played one test

  • John on January 4, 2012, 14:30 GMT

    @Full-Blooded-Wallop on (January 03 2012, 11:46 AM GMT) Not sure if you realise this but test cricket, ODs and T20s all require different skills/attributes. For some reason England have never sussed the formula to be a consistent OD side. Why - I do not know and England were admittedly awful. However England did win the last Ashes series in Australia and then (in similar conditions in the same country) lost the OD series 6-1 - see where I'm coming from?

  • John on January 4, 2012, 14:29 GMT

    @Posted by on (January 03 2012, 11:20 AM GMT) Re - Who is this spiritwithin? What English batting line-up? Doesn't he see what Zaheer and Umesh are doing in Australia? - well on today's (Jan 4th performance) admiring Clarke and Ponting . BTW , there have been a multitude of Indian fans on English based threads , purely to either drum up stats from yesteryear , equate OD form with test form or to make excuses etc

  • Martin on January 4, 2012, 9:27 GMT

    @krici_lover on (January 03 2012, 22:57 PM GMT); Need to set the record straight here. You are mistaken about excuses during the ODI series. Wombats made a point of NOT making any excuses - so if you say you "remember" - no you don't. Please publish this reply.

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2012, 9:04 GMT

    if irfan is there i would be help for indian team... replace virat by rohith...

  • Kaustav on January 4, 2012, 3:25 GMT

    Bad bowling by India except Zak no one has looked good with the bowl...the batting failed..look at the current score aus hav a 100+ lead..with both ponting & clarke set on 100z.. If they can bat so well then why cant our batsman bat?whats wrong with Ishant,Yadav & Ashwin..if India lose this series the seniors & Dhoni should be blamed..their time as the best batting line up in the world is over.

  • Andrew on January 4, 2012, 3:05 GMT

    This is at the moment looking like a horrendous thrashing for India. Punter & Pup look like they will have to give their wickets away to get out! Other than Zaheer, Kholi looks like the next best bowler (although I'd have to say Sharma has tried hard). Maybe Kohli can bat #8 as a bowling allrounder (sorry - had to put that in!).

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