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The Bulletin by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan at Bangalore
October 10, 2004
Australia 474 and 228 beat India 246 and 239 (Dravid 60, Pathan 55) by 217 runs
Australia romped to a thoroughly convincing victory, although later than expected on the final day, in the opening Test of the four-match series at Bangalore. An entertaining ninth-wicket stand delayed the inevitable, but with the skies completely clear, it was always going to be a matter of time. The end came 44 minutes after lunch as India were crushed by 217 runs.
The Indian top order collapsed last night, and with just four wickets left, only the last rites were left. Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan batted in unfettered fashion and gave the Sunday crowd a lot to cheer. Both went about dismantling Shane Warne's figures as his march towards the world record was halted. Warne went wicketless all morning, and will have to wait until Chennai for another chance to eclipse Muttiah Muralitharan's tally.
At the start of the day, though, the Indians waged a grim battle. Rahul Dravid faced only Warne while Pathan kept out Michael Kasprowicz at the other end. The only scoring shots in the first 12 overs were Dravid's two fours off Warne and, like last night, he refused the singles. Pathan survived a large dose of fortune in the sixth over of the morning, edging an attempted drive off Kasprowicz, as Michael Clarke grassed a tough chance diving to his left at second slip. The rest of the time, though, Pathan got behind the line of the ball and blocked confidently.
The Australians did their bit to break up the rhythm of the morning, and Adam Gilchrist's juggling of bowlers and ends finally paid off when Kasprowicz nailed Dravid in the 14th over of the day. The ball pitched outside off, cut back in and trapped him lbw for 60 (118 for 7).
With Dravid gone, the tailenders played with unrestrained freedom and delayed the inevitable by a few hours. Pathan blasted two massive sixes over midwicket as he shimmied down the track, the second of which was taken brilliantly on the pavilion balcony as one of the spectators leant over the railings and clung on. He also pulled off some delicate sweeps and smart nudges and padded away a few balls from Warne with calm authority.
Harbhajan joined in the fun by slog-sweeping Warne over midwicket. They added 72 rapidly before lunch, and went on to break the record for the highest ninth-wicket stand for India against Australia.
Jason Gillespie ended the revelry a few overs after lunch, soon after the new ball was taken, as Pathan (55) played back to one that pitched on a good length. The ball kissed the outside edge and Adam Gilchrist did the rest (214 for 9). Harbhajan swished around a little longer, smacking one off McGrath that landed inches in front of the extra-cover fence, before a top-edged hook went straight to long leg.
The batsmen were also largely helped by the attacking fields that the Australians set, with a number of men in the catching zones, and there were a few edges that landed in vacant areas. This was the only time in the game when the Australians didn't mind conceding a few easy runs, as they had choked the rest of the batsmen with their disciplined approach.
Glenn McGrath carried on from where he had left off in the tour game in Mumbai, and was near-impossible to score off, while Kasprowicz's ability to vary seam, length and pace left several batsmen clueless. The Australians religiously practised bowling at one stump before the start of each day's play, and that was exactly the line that they consistently achieved throughout the game.
The batting in the first innings had helped Australia seize the initiative as Clarke, Gilchrist and Simon Katich handled the spinners with ease. They didn't find it as easy in the second innings, though, with Harbhajan teasing them with a magnificent spell. That, apart from the lower-order batting, is something that India will take with them to Chennai. The other departments, though, need some serious oiling. These may be early days yet, but Bill Lawry's team of 1969-70 may just be shuffling in their seats.
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