Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 1st day January 16, 2008

Pitch was off the pace

For all the predictions of damage from Australia's four fast men there was not much blazing fire

The general rule in Perth is if the ball hits on the knee roll it can't be out. In the morning nobody would have believed a dismissal would have come this way © AFP

For all the predictions of damage from Australia's four fast men there was not much blazing fire. Each of the quartet, which was steered superbly by Brett Lee, was sharp, but the expected explosiveness was missing after an energetic opening from both teams. A hot day sapped the early promise from the surface and rumours of Perth's bounce returning have been exaggerated, at least on the side of the square that hasn't been relaid.

In December Shaun Tait was almost unplayable during a Twenty20 international on one of the springy pitches, but in his third Test he was unable to create the same level of fear. India's batsmen were the most relieved while many of the rest, including the home bowlers, felt slightly deceived.

The last time Australia tried a combination of four fast men was against India 15 years ago and the match was won in five days. In the lead-up to this game there was speculation it would be a short one, but the home team will have to sweat to achieve the world record of 17 wins in a row.

Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson opened, with the back-up coming from Tait and Stuart Clark, and while teeth were shown, the edges were soon blunted. Lee and Tait posted speeds above 150 kph in the first session, but they dropped to the low 140s in an afternoon of intense heat. A Tait bouncer barely reached Gilchrist on the full and a Sachin Tendulkar edge off Lee fell short of second slip. India's batsmen, particularly Tendulkar, were even able to re-think their shots, which is something that was not possible in Perth's prime.

Rather than having the luxury of unleashing his bowlers and watching them feed the cordon, Ricky Ponting had to be thoughtful. The slips stayed deep, but fielders were regularly rearranged in the infield and on the boundary, just as they were in the first two Tests.

A couple of wickets came with bowling changes, Lee swapping ends to pick up Wasim Jaffer and Mitchell Johnson returning to capture Sourav Ganguly with a slice to Michael Hussey, who took a fine diving catch. Dismissals that were meant for extreme speed came with cageyness instead.

At times it looked like the captain had too many riches and was not sure how to spend them. Andrew Symonds bowled five overs of medium pace in the second session after Tait had waited until shortly before lunch to be employed. Tait, who came in for Brad Hogg, was unsurprisingly erratic and more was expected when he had an aging ball, but he went without reward in 13 overs in three spells. Limited-overs games have provided most of his recent workload and he will need some time to run himself in.

Johnson was more effective than in Sydney and had two important wickets to show for the effort put in between Tests. Stronger in his delivery stride, he forced the batsmen to play more around off stump, picking up Virender Sehwag with an edge behind before removing Ganguly. An inswinging yorker was too fierce for Rahul Dravid, who was lucky to sustain only a sore foot and not an lbw dismissal.

Rather than having the luxury of unleashing his bowlers and watching them feed the cordon, Ricky Ponting had to be thoughtful

However, Lee was the most impressive and once he swapped ends after an expensive opening he operated like a well-tuned thoroughbred. Batsmen were forced to worry about nicking, Tendulkar missed a brilliant legcutter and the slips were always on alert. Jaffer pushed at Lee and gave Adam Gilchrist a simple catch and there were numerous challenges for India.

Dravid survived another drop in the series - Michael Clarke was the offender at first slip when the batsman was 11 - but Lee recovered and collected 3 for 64, a haul enhanced by the wicket of VVS Laxman with the second new ball. He powered towards the crease through 19 overs and Tendulkar's wicket came in his 15th, although the batsman was the unfortunate one this time. The ball was heading well over the stumps and might not have been in line with off. Asad Rauf upheld the lbw appeal.

The general rule in Perth is if the ball hits on the knee roll it can't be out. In the morning nobody would have believed a dismissal would have come this way, but the lack of spring in the pitch made it a possibility. While the surface may have tricked Rauf, it also flattened the bounce of Australia's fast-bowling posse.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Noman on January 17, 2008, 9:29 GMT

    Mr. Vishi please come out of your myopic world. I can't see an umpire giving marginal decision against Sachin because 'he's Sachin'. The umpire doesn't see the face of the player, he sees bat and pad so please... And by the way Sachin was very lucky to survive an lbw shout on 49 against Symonds, which very much looked out; and guess who gave him not out??? Same Asad Rauf. Thank God you haven't detected any Pakistani conspiracy in this one. Cricket today, more than ever, needs a fan base that can make judgements fairly becasue otherwise "it's just not cricket!!"

  • mehmood on January 17, 2008, 7:54 GMT

    As for as this test match is concerned. the indians are taking very lightly see they have started briliantly in the starting and then afterwards they just let the batsman go. they are not playing as a team they just want to settle in the team by scoring 20 or 30runs. The enthsiasm of cricket is going and pride of india is going;. i have seen so many times that first they started very good and then afterwards they loose there concentration. Yuvraj and Dhoni are behind the film actresses they r not concentration on game. why r they playing just dropped them and take the new faces.

  • Debashish on January 17, 2008, 4:09 GMT

    It was pretty disappointing to see the Perth pitch behave the way it did after all the blabbering going over the last couple of days about its return to to the pace and bounce of yesteryears... The bounce and carry were decent enough but the pace part would have come as abig disappointment for the Aussie quicks.. Though Lee bowled especially well it was Sachin and Dravid's fabulous partnership that took credits on the opening day. Credit to Sehwag too for taking the sting out off the opening attack. Awaiting for an interesting display from both teams as the game progresses!!

  • Anand on January 17, 2008, 1:28 GMT

    Are we all now saying that all the king's horses and all the king's men could not predict how a pitch will play up in the 1st day itself? Thats really poor form from the experts. Or is it that every time an Indian batting line up stands up to one of the quickest pace attack in the quickest track in the world, the track is no longer as quick as anticipated? A little more credit to Sachin and Dravid would have been more befitting as these world class batsmen can bat on any wicket. For the little bit that I saw, Tait was ordinary and so was Johnson in certain spells. The fastest pitch in the world won't fetch wickets if the right areas are not hit.

  • Krishna on January 17, 2008, 0:34 GMT

    Watching the aussie's bowl on the perth pitch, I was thinking of the same... I also thought (to my surprise) that the Indian bowling attack is probably more suited to this pitch than the aussies. It's not the pace that is going to worry the batsmen on this pitch. It'll be the variations that they can bring in that will make the difference. Zaheer would have been a real boon on this pitch. But I think Ishant is really going to become a star and I wouldn't be surprised if Pathan rediscovers the in-curving ball. I think Aussies are in for a surprise when they bat.

    I wouldn't be surprised if India wins in the Aussie bastion.

  • Vishi on January 16, 2008, 20:34 GMT

    I have seen this so many times... Sachin always gets marginal decisions... Im wondering if the ego of the umpires takes over their thinking... Hey, you might be Sachin, but I have the final say !! Serious, I dont think this is a trivial issue... No journalist has ever reported on the phsche of the umpires based on the batsmen they are dealing with... I think better than concentrating on just silly banter from each teams, they can maybe do a bit research on the topic of how umpires view players statures!!

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