Million-dollar children of T20
If you're an Australian, the fourth day of the Second Inevitable Defeat in Hyderabad was painful to watch, as your chaps headed for the "Making India put their pads on again" landmark with the speed and dynamism of a sloth hauling three bags of heavy shopping back from the supermarket.* For everyone else, it was fascinating, in a brutal, hard-to-watch way, like the fight scenes in Gladiator, or the acting of Russell Crowe.
There was even a cruel twist to the narrative. At 108 for 3, you could hardly say things were going swimmingly, but the green-hatted ones were at least past the paddling stage and were wading trepidatiously out into the ocean that separated them from a respectable second- innings score and a short rest on the island of Dignified Defeat.
And then they were washed away. Bowled by Jadeja, Clarke held his position like a Greek warrior whose eyes had met Medusa's across a crowded temple, and who'd decided that, since he was going to turn into stone anyway, he might just as well stay where he was. Jadeja celebrated in the manner of the modern sportsman, by punching an invisible opponent in the groin, and you could almost hear the sigh as the air departed from the punctured football of Australian hope.
Of India's trio of troublesome tweakers, Ashwin is the most fun to watch. He winds himself up like a big clockwork toy that takes a lot of cranking to get going. One delivery to Cowan had little Ed looking like Charlie Chaplin might have done if the bandy-legged genius had ever starred as a hapless cricketer tormented by spin-bowling bullies. But even though Ashwin finished with another big pile of wickets, he wasn't the star of the fifth day.
Actually, there were three stars. The first was Jadeja. We thought we knew where we were with Jadeja. He was a child of T20, an over-hyped multi-million dollar bits-and-pieces player, a slogger and arm-turner-over, who surfed the yellow wave of Chennai onto the Test match shore. But now it seems he's a proper cricketer, so we all need to update the Jadeja files in the cricket stereotype annexes of our brains.
Jadeja's superhero feat at cover means we might also have to rethink our clichés about Indian fielding. He ran Moises out by several feet, and even had time for a fumble. It wasn't Tuesday's most impressive piece of fielding, though. That prize went to the day's other stars: Dhoni's left and right wicketkeeping pads. Lefty's sharp thinking helped dismiss Cowan by diverting the ball to slip, while Righty expertly parried an edge from Siddle straight to Kohli.
With the game all but up, there was only one official batsman left. Enter Glenn Maxwell, the saviour of Australian cricket. He edged one, slogged a kind of sweep for four, and after hanging around a bit like an onlooker at a fire, failed to spot Ashwin's carrom ball. My Maxwell file currently reads, "overhyped child of T20, a million-dollar bits-and-pieces player, out of his depth in Test cricket", and fortunately I don't have to amend that one just yet.
* You might ask why this imaginary sloth wouldn't order his shopping online, thereby avoiding the queues of monkeys buying one banana each, and the effort of schlepping all the way to Sloth and Sons. There are two reasons. Firstly, the fictional sloth in question did once try using the internet to procure his weekly comestibles, but was badly let down when they delivered diet Cecropia leaves rather than regular Cecropia foliage. And secondly, booking a delivery slot that didn't coincide with a nap proved both difficult and tiring.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England