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The Bulletin by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan at Bangalore
October 7, 2004
India 150 for 6 (Ganguly 45) trail Australia 474 (Clarke 151, Gilchrist 104, Harbhajan 5 for 146) by 324 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Two sensational hundreds, two sensational balls, and a thoroughly ruthless and professional performance helped Australia assume control on the second day of the first Test at Bangalore. With their miracle workers gone, India found themselves staring at defeat, 324 runs behind with only four wickets left.
It was a perfect day for Australia. Adam Gilchrist and Michael Clarke dominated the first three hours with sparkling footwork and spanking drives, and then their bowlers coaxed life out of what had seemed a featherbed pitch till then. Glenn McGrath showed what Australia had missed during their home series last year by winkling out two wickets in his first two overs and Michael Kasprowicz, who won Australia a Test at this ground in 1998, showed how to bowl on a slow pitch by striking two vital blows after India had steadied themselves through an enterprising partnership between Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly. Shane Warne then capped a great day for Australia by claiming VVS Laxman with a ball he will cherish: it drifted in, pitched on a perfect spot on leg, and beat Laxman's prodding bat with sharp turn to hit off.
The hope for India lay in an early breakthrough - but it didn't come until the last ball before lunch. In those two hours, Gilchrist left the Indian spinners clueless as he struck a fine balance between caution and attack. He scored quickly, but differently to his usual approach, choosing to go down the ground instead of behind square as has been his custom. He carted both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh straight for sixes in their first overs, and then opened up the field and pushed around for easy runs. All through the morning, the Indians posted two men on the fence for the sweep, but unlike Matthew Hayden yesterday, Gilchrist didn't fall for the trap.
His first sweep didn't come until he had 87, a controlled four to long leg, and his century came up a couple of overs later, with two successive cover-driven fours that beat long-off. It wasn't his usual swashbuckling style, but the hundred still came off 103 balls and the Indians just didn't know where to bowl to him. He fell on the stroke of lunch, to a brilliant return catch, as Harbhajan dived full-length to his right to latch on to one that skimmed inches above the ground (423 for 5).
Gilchrist also played a crucial part in guiding Clarke to his hundred. With three figures in sight, Clarke was a bundle of nerves early in the day. His first two fours came through edges, before he survived a huge leg-before shout against Kumble. With a seven-two field against bowling that was directed outside off, Clarke swished and missed, changed his gloves, and made frequent forays to square leg between balls.
But as soon as he traded his helmet for a baggy green cap, Clarke got to the landmark with a clipped two to midwicket, becoming the first Australian since Greg Blewett in 1994-95 to score a century on Test debut. The next 50 runs were made in unfettered style, and he sprayed the bowling to all parts as India's slow bowlers, especially Kumble, were found wanting. Just after lunch, Kumble was thumped for two fours and a six over midwicket, as Clarke moved his feet with ballet-like precision.
He fell immediately after reaching his 150 as an attempted cover-drive off Zaheer Khan took the edge and went straight through to Parthiv Patel (471 for 8). Harbhajan mopped up the tail in next to no time to finish with an expensive five-for - but by then, India were already requiring a mighty turnaround.
McGrath struck with the fourth ball of the Indian innings as Aakash Chopra shouldered arms to one that darted back in. Replays showed that the ball might have gone just over the stumps (0 for 1). But the body blow came in McGrath's second over as a peach of delivery, pitched outside off and cutting in, sneaked through Rahul Dravid's defence to crash into the stumps (4 for 2). McGrath had struck twice in six balls, and Dravid left to a stunned silence at his home ground.
Ganguly scythed through that tension with two gorgeous cover-drives that had everyone gasping. He didn't hold back when the ball was dug in short, and rolled his wrists while executing the pull. At the other end, Sehwag let rip as the cover fielders chased some lashed drives. After bowling one over before tea, Warne returned in the 20th over of the innings. Sehwag immediately made room for himself and the ball teased the fielder at short extra cover before escaping the grasp of the one at mid-off.
But the introduction of Kasprowicz provided Australia with the double break. Ganguly was cut in half in Kasprowicz's first over, as he intelligently varied the pace of delivery as well as the extent of seam movement. Sehwag chipped a straight one uppishly to midwicket, where Justin Langer leapt up and latched on (87 for 3). And then Ganguly was done in by a brute of a cutter, and only managed to edge it to Gilchrist (98 for 4).
Until he received that Warne Special Delivery, Laxman looked in regal touch, with a couple of sublime flicks of McGrath and Kasprowicz. It took a ripping, accurate legbreak to get him out and India finished the day seeking a miracle of Kolkata '01 proportions.
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