Australia v India, 2nd day, Sydney January 3, 2004

Masters of control

There were two teams that played today, but only one showed up. India rattled up 366 runs in 90 overs against a dispirited Australian attack to end the second day on 650 for 5. This was the highest score by a visiting team in Australia, breaking England's 75-year-old record of 636.

A 353-run partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman withstood the Australian attack, and ruled out a victory for the home team. It was the third triple-century stand Laxman was involved in against the Australians, and the second in the series.

Though Tendulkar went on to score a double-century, a closer look at Laxman's 178 reveals telling facts. He scored only 18 runs behind the wicket, preferring the drives down the ground. Relying less on cuts and steers, Laxman went on the attack, scoring most of his runs in a wide arc from cover to midwicket. Even the fast bowlers were driven in front of the wicket. His control was exemplary: of the 298 deliveries he faced, only 14 were out of his control. In comparison, of the 419 deliveries Tendulkar faced, he was not in control of 56: a number much higher than Laxman's, but still a very good one for a man who was supposed to be out of form.

Batsmen in control
Balls faced In control
VVS Laxman 298 95.30%
Sachin Tendulkar 419 86.60%

VVS Laxman on the attack
Overall Against fast bowlers
Runs behind wicket 18 17
Runs in front of wicket 160 90

Through the entire 2003, Tendulkar managed 153 runs. In his first innings of 2004, he scored an unbeaten 220. It was a knock of attrition, with Tendulkar battling the bowlers as well as his own lean form. His lack of confidence was reflected in the number of runs he scored off the front foot. Only 20% of all his runs came when he played forward, but his rate off the back foot was astounding for Test match cricket.

Tendulkar's comfort off the back foot
Balls Runs Runs per 6 balls
Off front foot 233 42 1.1
Off back foot 185 178 5.7

Continuing the first day's trend, the leg side was a preferred area of scoring for Tendulkar. In a way, this was an innings based on the Steve Waugh school of batting: wait for the bowlers to tire, and then play your shots. The bowlers stuck to a line outside off stump, hoping to induce an error, but Tendulkar was patient. When the bowlers flagged and strayed in line, he put the ball away.

Tendulkar's leg-side mastery
Runs scored
Leg side 169
Off side 51
Half-volleys 70 off 62 balls