India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 4th day October 4, 2010

Rebuilding Australia retain never-say-die spirit

Somehow Australia have either hung in or come back for the last four days to now be favourites

Whatever happens on the final day of this great Test, Australia can be proud of themselves. Don't count on them feeling content with this, though.

This has been an un-Australian display in many ways, but in the refusal to give up, in the fight they have put up despite limitations, this has been so very Australian. And that is the beauty of playing Australia, that only rarely - like in Nagpur two years ago - do they make it easy for the other side to win.

In foreign conditions, with two bowlers who had never played Tests here and one who had played one, with a wobbly middle order that has allowed the Indian spinners to dictate terms, somehow Australia have either hung in or come back for the last four days to now be favourites.

Earlier Australian sides wouldn't have batted the way Shane Watson and Tim Paine did in the first innings. Even as recently as in 2008-09, Matthew Hayden was trying to hit his way out of trouble, feeling out of place as one of the pack. The difference, perhaps, was that that team was not used to struggling. This team has not only been introduced to the struggles, it seems to be enjoying the fight. And India, down to three bowlers and five batsmen in the first innings, have given them some fight, only for Australia to absorb, absorb, absorb, and then strike back at a weak moment.

On the start of the fourth morning, with all three results possible, Australia showed safety was the last thing on their minds. Watson went from monk to marauder, identifying the moment to seize and coming hard at India. All the shots he had avoided earlier, he played now: the upper-cut, the slog-sweep, the adventurous drive against the turn. A collapse followed, but two left-hand batsmen who were denied by the golden generation before them stuck around to push Australia to a defendable total.

Simon Katich and Michael Hussey began their careers almost simultaneously as kids in Perth, and started this game with the same number of caps and runs. Hussey followed Katich into the 4000-run club today, and you couldn't help but wonder how many more they would have got had they been born in some other country. Both of them have been part of - fleetingly, albeit - the days of domination too, but as scratchy accumulators. The 42 runs that came from their scratchy accumulation today will not be talked about often, but just ask India what they won't give for a 42-run stand right now?

The pièce de résistance, though, came when Australia came out to defend 215. If Virender Sehwag got off to a flier, this would have been one last Australian effort in this match. And if this was going to be the one last effort, they were going to make it grand.

The Australian bowlers might not have the skill of Zaheer Khan, but they made up for it through aggression and persistence. The wickets didn't come through a cracking pitch or a mischievous spinner, but through three pace bowlers finding energy they didn't seem to have in the first innings. Ben Hilfenhaus' pace went up dramatically, Doug Bollinger found accuracy, and Mitchell Johnson just had to do the back-up job.

"We had a bit over an hour to bowl," Hilfenhaus said later. "We knew we could come out hard. We knew we didn't have the runs on the board, and this could be the defining moment in the match."

There have been teams that have tried the short ball against Sehwag in the last two years and failed, but the Australian trio remained quick and accurate. With only two men in front of square, Bollinger kept pounding in the bouncers at around 140kmph, and hit Rahul Dravid once before getting his wicket.

Hilfenhaus was prepared to play what is not his natural game. He bowled as many bouncers and cutters as he did outswingers. He had been much better in the first innings than figures of 0 for 100 suggest. For somebody playing his first Test in the country, he has shown remarkable knowledge of Indian conditions. He has been bowling off a shorter run, preserving energy for longer spells, and has done well with the old ball that hasn't quite swung.

Against Sehwag today, two of his bouncers sailed over the keeper's head, giving away close to 4% of what Australia were defending. With a change of ends, he kept searching for the correct bouncer. It wasn't quite an unplayable delivery, and Sehwag has managed these before too, but the right amount of pressure had been created.

Similarly Hilfenhaus has promised to put Sachin Tendulkar, who has terrorised generations of Australian bowlers before him for 20 years, under the pump on the final day. Who can blame him for feeling confident? Staying consistent with the Australian way, expect Hilfenhaus and friends to make India fight for every single run.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • J Ranjith on October 5, 2010, 20:37 GMT

    People who question Sachin's fourth innings average need to stop sometime. These guys just want to criticize Sachin and bring him down and having got a small point, they blow it big. So if Sachin does not have an average of 40+ in fourth innings, would be become less in stature? If so, Ponting's average in Indian pitches (so called dead and roads by many) is just 20+ which is less than Harbhajan's batting average in Australia. So does Ponting become technically less than Bhajji? Do not just take one statistics and blow it in every forum you get to write. Sachin has played enough wonderful innings in fourth innings of a test match, he might have flopped in world cup or in many more examples you can point out. But one cannot achieve everything in life. People make themselves look churlish by stating a simple fact again and again for a cheaper cause.

  • ramakrishna on October 5, 2010, 8:32 GMT

    VVS Wow WHat a gifted player you are I dont have words for you. 2 test in a row you won for india single handed. Amazing player its worth watching it. I am mesmirised infront of my TV watching your Inngs. The nightmare of VVS will haunt AUS for long time. Congrats India for winning the 1st test and keeping the lead. Guys lets not forget the contribution of Ishant its a learning lession for all the tailenders. His application and determination is tremendous infact he took some burden from VVS by scoring runs too. I appriciate Ojha too. But guys there is one more person who was on the field for long time and played key role in last two wins is Suresh Raina running for VVS. I am truly thrilled with the Indian Victory and dont have any more words for Appriciation.

  • Dre on October 5, 2010, 7:05 GMT

    People will talk about Laxman BUT Ishant has played the big inning. Incredible effort by him. He was beaten 100 times but learned from every beat. Never ran, never lost his cool. For me, his knock was the most vital, Laxman 2nd. It looks like Ind are gonna win and I am not surprised. Aus were 50 runs short which hampered their field settings. had they been able to attack more, they could have had Laxman caught in the slips early. Tight test but the quality overall hasn't been that good. Hope the quality improves not only in this series but between all countries around the world, as the standards of what we are seeing are close battles between 1/2 decent sides and not close battles between very good ones. Something I thik Ian Chapple already stated.

  • johnny on October 5, 2010, 7:04 GMT

    Dear NISH67 which 'ego-centric player who believes the cricket world revolves around him ' might you be referring to??? All players have good and bad experiences with certain things so they are all entitle to their opinions...same as the rest of us fans, aren't they? The decision to use UDRS lies with the ICC and the individual cricketing boards. I am all in favour of the UDRS and I am also a fan of the player that you may be referring to - I think he probably is the best batsman of the modern era and a hell of a humble guy!! Certainly not a 'ego-centric player who believes the cricket world revolves around him '. Please quote any statements from him that prove otherwise? Just cos someone has wide fan following does not make him 'ego-centric'.

  • Sajitha on October 5, 2010, 6:30 GMT

    well well well.Now Indians talking about UDRs.Only because they got few decisions that won't favor them.

  • Kannan on October 5, 2010, 6:01 GMT

    I have actually been watching Indians play for 38 years and nothing has changed in the way they totally mentally disintegrate even when in a winning position. Not once, not twice, but I can reel out numerous occasions when they have lost from positions when no 2 bit team would have lost from winning positions. I am ashamed to the extent I cannot explain. The malaise in this case, is the way they need to be mentally conditioned. The mental conditioning of every Indian player is way below par and the Indians don't seem to have a clue how to fix it. Besides, they don't know things that FEAR erodes SELF BELIEF and to combat FEAR you need to up your self belief and that can happen by things like self talk. Look at the Indian commentators - they are all doomsday prophets portraying pictures of despair even when victory is in sight. Don't believe me? Read Shastri prophecy before start of play today on cricinfo...Indians have never heard of "power of positive expectations influencing outcome!

  • Ravish on October 5, 2010, 5:38 GMT

    It is good that India is losing this game and they should loose many more games in cricket and I hope people loose their passion in cricket in India. It is high time that people start paying attention to other sports in India instead of paying too much attention to sports played by over-hyped, under-performing prima donnas. India need to pay attention and start taking to other sports some of which are played world over than cricket which is played by just 9 full-time members 4 of which are in the sub-continent. Cricketers in India are like a stock that is high bubble and ready to burst at any point and its only going down from here.

  • nishantha on October 5, 2010, 5:33 GMT

    Well done Australia -on the way to a deserved victory . India have only themselves to blame for this position . Their reluctance to use the UDRS in order to pacify the ego of one individual has backfired and come back to bite them where it hurts the most . It is now time for the other players , the BCCI and the ICC to take a stand and ensure that the available technology is implemented in every test match notwithstanding the selfish motives of an ego-centric player who believes the cricket world revolves around him !

  • Dummy4 on October 5, 2010, 5:15 GMT

    Why always shewag & Sachin has to perform it come to under pressure game.. why cant dhoni and rest of the team......we cant keep dhoni only for his captaincy..he too bat atleast once in two years......

  • khurram on October 5, 2010, 5:14 GMT

    ladies n gentlemen as i suggested yesterday tendulkar has again failed to take india home

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