Australia v India, 4th Test, Adelaide, 5th day January 28, 2008

Pitch defied reputation and result

Pitch-making is an imprecise science, but it is perhaps stretching optimism to expect a result on a pitch that routinely produces more than 1000 runs in the first two innings


Adam Gilchrist, souvenir stump in hand, leaves Test cricket behind © AFP
 
Life is rarely a movie script and so one of the greatest match-winners in modern cricket bowed out with a draw, ironically the first at Adelaide in this decade, but he went to a hero's farewell, with hugs and applause from opponents and team-mates alike. Romantics prayed desperately for a dash at the end - a target of 200 in 30 overs with Adam Gilchrist coming out to open - but in the end the reality of the pitch caught up with Adelaide's reputation of producing last-day thrillers.

In some ways, the draw was an appropriate result. Neither side had the resources to force a result on a pitch designed to favour batsmen. A couple of previous results had been freakish. In 2003, Australia doomed themselves by indecision in the second innings and went on to lose a Test after scoring 550 in the first innings; in 2006, England froze before Shane Warne on the fifth morning having put up over 550 in their first innings. Those Tests became great ones accidentally; it can safely be said this was not a pitch designed to produce a result.

Pitch-making is an imprecise science, but it is perhaps stretching optimism to expect a result on a pitch that routinely produces more than 1000 runs in the first two innings. India's numbers 8 and 9 eased to half-centuries and even the no 11 found survival comfortable. The pacemen found little zip or movement, and there was little encouragement for spinners on the fourth day. It is only so many times a last-day collapse can be trusted to bring alive a Test.

The question must be asked if Virender Sehwag intimidates his batting partners as much as he does bowlers for this was not the first time Sehwag's radiance was matched by the somnolence of his team-mates. Without his mighty innings, the most mature of his career, India would have contrived a defeat and the legend of Adelaide's breathless finishes would have been further reinforced. Both would have been unfair.

India have done enough on this tour to not end it with a defeat, though Michael Clarke will perhaps wonder for the rest of his life what could have been had he clutched on to the sharp but straightforward offering from Sehwag last evening that would have reduced India to 2 for 2. As if to prove trifles such as edges don't bother him, Sehwag repeated the stroke and ran two but, from that point on, his innings was one of restraint without the sacrifice of flair.

At one point, he had scored nearly 80 % of the total and it bordered on the ridiculous. Though survival wasn't difficult, runs didn't come easy, yet throughout the innings Sehwag made it look as if he was batting on a different pitch. As his innings grew, he became increasingly astute about leaving balls outside the off-stump and his defending was tight. Yet every time a run-making opportunity arose, he capitalised. It had always been a mistake to leave him out of the Test side on the basis of poor one-day form but perhaps the pain of banishment has forged a new steel. In the autumn of India's batting titans, the spring in Sehwag's step is perhaps India's biggest gain from a tough and fruitful series.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

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  • SmashingBaby on January 28, 2008, 22:02 GMT

    I totally agree with Sambit about the pitch, but even so I really hoped that India might have gone for the win by declaring at tea and giving Australia 30 overs to chase 200-odd. Australia may have gone for it, which from India's point of view may have resulted in quick wickets and a chance to win the game. If Australia looked like actually getting the runs India could have always gone defensive in the closing stages to ensure a draw, but what a treat the spectators would have enjoyed in that last session! All too often teams don't think about the spectators and the fact that they are primarily entertainers, and not warriors fighting for a cause where winning or not losing is everything.

  • SmashingBaby on January 28, 2008, 22:02 GMT

    I totally agree with Sambit about the pitch, but even so I really hoped that India might have gone for the win by declaring at tea and giving Australia 30 overs to chase 200-odd. Australia may have gone for it, which from India's point of view may have resulted in quick wickets and a chance to win the game. If Australia looked like actually getting the runs India could have always gone defensive in the closing stages to ensure a draw, but what a treat the spectators would have enjoyed in that last session! All too often teams don't think about the spectators and the fact that they are primarily entertainers, and not warriors fighting for a cause where winning or not losing is everything.

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  • SmashingBaby on January 28, 2008, 22:02 GMT

    I totally agree with Sambit about the pitch, but even so I really hoped that India might have gone for the win by declaring at tea and giving Australia 30 overs to chase 200-odd. Australia may have gone for it, which from India's point of view may have resulted in quick wickets and a chance to win the game. If Australia looked like actually getting the runs India could have always gone defensive in the closing stages to ensure a draw, but what a treat the spectators would have enjoyed in that last session! All too often teams don't think about the spectators and the fact that they are primarily entertainers, and not warriors fighting for a cause where winning or not losing is everything.