March 1, 2001

Waugh's Aussies make it sweet sixteen

It was a day Sourav Ganguly would love to forget and Steve Waugh would remember for a long time to come. While Waugh led the rampaging Aussies to a crushing ten wicket victory over India in the first Test at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai in under three days, his counterpart could contribute little in terms of captaincy and less with the bat. The contrast in styles of leadership and indeed approach and ability were glaring in the whitewash. Waugh juggled his bowlers well, giving them the fields they wanted and kept up the pressure incessantly. Ganguly in turn failed to rise to the occasion and could do little but watch helplessly even as the Australians took a 1-0 lead in the three Test series.

Beginning the day on 58/2, India needed to bat positively, yet solidly, to bring the momentum back in their favour. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid had their task cut out for them. Starting off well, Dravid and Tendulkar seemed to know exactly what was required of them. Stonewalling against some hostile fast bowling from Jason Gillespie in particular, the pair defied the Australians. Going through to lunch at 116/2 the two might well have been pleased with their efforts. If they were, it was premature.

The post lunch session started with a bang. Tendulkar helped himself to a couple of sizzling boundaries and set the pulses of the crowd racing. However, it was not to last long enough to get India out of the woods. Tendulkar, pulling a Mark Waugh long hop hard, found Justin Langer's shoulder at forward short leg. The ball ballooned up in the air towards no man's land. No man's land? Not really. Ricky Ponting, searing across the turf at midwicket, leapt full length and perfectly parallel to the ground at full stretch and pulled off a sensational catch. It was exactly the inspirational effort Australia needed. Tendulkar made 65 (107 balls, 11 fours) in addition to his first innings 76. A lone hand it was from the man from Mumbai.

At 154/3 India were still in a position from which they could have at least given the Aussies a run for their money. Unfortunately a string of low scores - Ganguly (1), Laxman (12), Agarkar (0) put paid to any such hopes. Ganguly needlessly ran himself out, a nervous Laxman edged to the keeper and Agarkar picked up his seventh consecutive duck against the Aussies. Dravid, who toiled hard, made things out to be a bit more difficult than they actually were. Painfully compiling runs, the Karnataka middle order bat played all over a Shane Warne legspinner wide outside the leg stump and was bowled around the legs. Dravid made 39 off 196 balls.

At that stage it was all over, with the Aussies moving in for the kill. Javagal Srinath batting one handed provided some comic relief but served no real purpose. All out for 219, India set Australia a paltry target of 47 for victory. Matthew Hayden (28, 21 balls, 4 fours, 1 six) and Michael Slater (19, 21 balls, 4 fours) knocked off the required runs in just seven overs. The elation in the Australian dressing room was plain for all to see. Man of the match Adam Gilchrist ran from captain to coach giving them high fives and embraces. And why not? It was after all the vice captain's quickfire 122 that set up a memorable Australian victory. This win makes it sixteen in a row for the Australians. When the winning streak is finally broken, it will be a formidable figure.

The first Test match was one of those games where not a moment went by without something exciting happening. There was never a dull moment. Perhaps an avoidable moment or two however. When Dravid pulled a short ball from Fleming in the direction of Slater at square leg things came to a boil. Diving low, Slater scooped the ball up and claimed the catch. Umpire Venkataraghavan was not convinced about the legality of the catch and referred the matter to the third umpire. Television replays suggested that the ball had come off the turf. Ruled not out by the third umpire, Dravid watched in shock as Slater went over to umpire Venkat and exchanged words with him. The New South Welshman appeared to be less than impressed with the decision. If that was not enough, Slater went across to Dravid and gave him a piece of his mind. Unfortunately, the things he said are probably not the kind that any editor would allow to go to print. Suffice it to say that Slater overstepped the line. Match referee, Cammie Smith of the West Indies looked into the matter and let off Slater with a warning. It remains to be seen whether the Australian Cricket Board will take any action on their own.