Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day January 17, 2008

India turn the tables

It was a day when bowlers were rewarded for their skills and another set of modern batsmen was found wanting against a rare, but thankfully not extinct, bowling art: swing bowling

Irfan Pathan has regained his pace and swing and was strong enough to bowl 17 overs in the searing heat © Getty Images

This Test began with Australia chasing history, and India, at least in the eyes of cricket fans, looking to chase away the ghosts. They last played a Test here 15 years ago and, though the only survivor from that team would have carried happy personal memories, even he would not have forgotten the ignominy of the final innings when ten wickets fell for 59 runs. This Test has not been won or lost yet but, incredibly, it is now Australia who left playing catch-up.

Fifteen wickets in the day would point to some fire or juice in the pitch. That was hardly the case. It was a day when bowlers were rewarded for their skills and another set of modern batsmen was found wanting against a rare, but thankfully not extinct, bowling art: swing bowling. Australia lost the Ashes in 2005 to reverse-swing and today they were undone by traditional swing. It had been a similar story in the first innings of the second Test but, unlike that day, fortune didn't desert India, who weathered a dangerous sixth-wicket partnership to finish the second day on top.

It's a match that continues to surprise. Australia began the day with joy, yet by lunch they were up against it. On a pitch that was supposedly designed to blow the Indian batsmen off their blocks, it was the Indian pace bowlers, at best sharp but mostly medium, who teased the Australians by floating the ball up and curving it away. By the end of the day, the Australian bowlers, who couldn't have imagined they would be bowling again in the day, seemed to be gripped by nerves as they sent down a succession of no-balls and wides. Shaun Tait, pushed to hurry through the last over, sprayed a wide off a short run and then lost his run-up the next ball.

Apart from those two ill-chosen strokes in the last hour of the first day, India have made all the running in this Test so far. Finally they chose the right batting order - with hindsight it can now be said that the eagerness to accommodate Yuvraj Singh was a great distraction - and they were not deterred at the toss by the reputation of the pitch. It would have been a defensive decision to bowl first. And even Irfan Pathan rewarded the team management with a cameo with the bat and a lovely opening spell that accounted for the openers. He has regained his pace and swing and was strong enough to bowl 17 overs in the searing heat.

In the context of what has gone so far, it is easy to miss the significance of the partnership yesterday between Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. In a Test where most batsmen have played and missed, their performance in the second session can be called commanding. Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist, who scored his first fifty of the series, almost matched them today but, if their rollicking stand was based on adventurism and bold stroke-play, Dravid and Tendulkar provided technical virtuosity.

So much has already happened in the Test it is hard to believe only two days are over. But India will know that five sessions don't win a Test. Some had predicted a three-day finish for this Test but, barring a sensational collapse from India, it is expected to go into the fourth day. India will need three solid sessions to take control of the match. There will rarely be a better opportunity for their dazzling batsmen to set it up for their much more inexperienced bowlers who have, once again, surpassed all expectations.

Australia would want to keep the chase down to 300 and wouldn't want to chase more than 350. India would perhaps feel secure with a 450-run advantage. The battle for those hundred runs would be fascinating. Brett Lee and Stuart Clark have been Australia's outstanding bowlers but Ponting will expect Tait, who has replaced the man who is not only their main spin option but a handy No. 8, to step up tomorrow.

Australia are behind in this match but it is not beyond them. Nothing is. They have not racked up this winning streak with the help of umpires. They will fight like hell to maintain it. Expect another cracking day tomorrow. Perhaps the decisive one.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • DineshKumar on January 18, 2008, 10:07 GMT

    India has the good chance and time to win this test match. Bowlers have to be precise in their attack as they did in the 1st innings. Good luck Team India.

  • Jaipreet on January 18, 2008, 9:14 GMT

    Ah! We now have a game on don't we? Chasing 413 to win would be one in a lifetime achievement, and though nothing is beyond Australia, most likely this will be the win Indian team has been desperately seeking. The Indian bowlers though were, at least in the first innings, a revelation. They have yet again shown that line and length is more important than brut pace, and that too many short balls / bouncers don't get wickets. History shows that people like Richard Hadley (who dropped his pace during the later part of his career) and Kapil Dev (who was always a faster medium pacer) have done well in their times and been on top of the list. Tait going wicket less all through, must tell a story as well! Let's see if the Indian quicks can go on to replicate their first innings performance. But like I said, nothing is beyond Australia.

  • deepak on January 18, 2008, 7:43 GMT

    I think india should win this game comfortably if you look at the performance of our bowlers in the first innings.sambit i always like your know how to put a balance in your article.keep going in the same fashion.we are in a great position to win this test match.

  • Bharath on January 18, 2008, 7:28 GMT

    India will win this match. India will get australia below 220 runs. lets watch the Match

  • Mohan on January 18, 2008, 4:54 GMT

    Yes! India would need atleast 400 to be in the driver's seat..australia is a fast scoring side and they would give u a chance too!..india need exactly 150 runs from its last 5 wickets.

  • Jordan on January 18, 2008, 1:15 GMT

    Excellent article. The Indian bowlers performed brilliantly and India are in a strong position, but like you say, Australia are capable of fighting hard. It has been great seeing such competitive cricket, even if it was hard to watch sometimes as an Australian. I'm also glad that, unlike other journalists, you haven't predicted the complete demise of Australian cricket based on one day of poor cricket. People said the same thing in 2005 didn't they?

  • Geoff on January 18, 2008, 1:09 GMT

    Great to see India has put what happened in Sydney behind them. Kumble has come across as an insightful captain and deserves credit for his statements to the media and obviously behind the scenes, what he has said to his team. Sachin, I am looking forward to your second innings today - the world is cheering India on to what would be a deserved and historical victory in Perth but as Sambit notes, beware the wounded Wallaby.

  • Vaidy on January 18, 2008, 0:25 GMT

    Yes, Sambit, I agree with Dheeraj that your article is pretty balanced. Living in Australia, the local TV has the likes of Ian Healy commentating, which I am forced to hear. Even the brit Mark Nicholas is pretty uni-dimensional. Till the second day of the Perth test, I was sick and tired of hearing these parochial and unbalanced views - and finally yesterday, Healy made some comments that really surprised me - I wondered if he was ever capable of prasising the opposition when they do well?

    I know you chaps will be under pressure - cricinfo editorial team appears to be dominated by Indians. But, well done, keep up the neutrality and balance in your articles.

  • Dheeraj on January 17, 2008, 20:19 GMT

    Very nicely put Sambit and the best thing is the right "balance" of the article.

    I always HATE it when writers take balance out of the equation in favor of their bias or plain sensationlization to attract hard-core avid fans

    As you say, it ain't over and Indian aren't in complete commanding position - what they have is a platform for execution to be in complete control of the game.


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