India v Australia, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 2nd day October 10, 2010

Sehwag undone by well-laid plan

Ben Hilfenhaus, the most skilled of the Australian bowlers, out-thought the most destructive batsman in world cricket

It was a high. You were not sure how long it would last, but that actually was the thrill of it. As it turned out, it lasted for just 28 balls, but those 28 balls were worth remembering - both for Virender Sehwag's brilliance and Australia's acumen to get him out - as much as Marcus North's career-saving century or Sachin Tendulkar's serene saunter past 14,000 runs to stabilise India.

The near full-house - and that is a scheduling lesson for the BCCI who gives Tests to venues that don't really care about them - had seen and appreciated the visitors work hard for two sessions to get runs on board when all they actually came to see was Sehwag bat.

They had been patient, and cheered the Aussies. There was a sense of making up for Saturday when they booed every batsman that came out. When the Australian innings finally ended, they threw the niceties out and were ready for some real cheering. But there were only a few minutes to the tea break, and if hell would break loose, it would do so only after 20 minutes.

Sehwag came out to a typical Sehwag field. Square third man, deep point, fine leg, short leg, leg gully. It would all be short, mixed with the odd sucker ball. Sehwag upper-cut the first ball he faced, but deliberately in front of deep point. The crowd, it will be an understatement to say, went wild.

If Australia had the plan, Sehwag had the counters. He has done that to Kumar Sangakkara and Graeme Smith again and again over the last year, and was ready to do it to Ricky Ponting too.

What summed up Sehwag was neither an individual shot nor the strike-rate. It was the reaction on the faces of gully, slip and short leg when he upper-cut Mitchell Johnson. Michael Hussey at gully and Simon Katich at short leg were like men who were watching a prey enter the trap. Hussey jumped back expectantly, looking at the third man, only to see it sail over. Katich was sure that that was the wicket, but was left with an "aah" on his face. The prey had not only slipped away, he was creating havoc. Shane Watson at slip, perhaps more perceptive of Sehwag's methods than others, just laughed.

Johnson pitched up later, and Sehwag punched him through the covers. Peter George, the debutant, was then asked to bowl his first over to Sehwag of all the people. Twice in first over he was driven between the non-striker and mid-on. As the noise in the stands became louder and louder, the conferences between captain and bowler lasted longer and longer.

The decisive one was between Ricky Ponting and Ben Hilfenhaus, the most skilled of the Aussie bowlers. In his four earlier overs, he had managed just five deliveries at Sehwag. Now he had possibly a full over to work at Sehwag. There was a new plan here. There would be square legs in the circle, and another one in the deep. More accurate, more aggressive short deliveries would be bowled. And in Mohali he showed he has a mean bouncer to go with his outswing and occasional cutters.

If this was going to be short, Sehwag was going to pull it in front of square: he was going to be ready deep in the crease. Sure enough the ball was short, but it was the slower bouncer, and Sehwag ended up dragging the pull straight into the lap of the man waiting in the deep

The first one was so accurate it got Sehwag in the helmet. A hush fell on the ground. It sounded like a boo, but it like the nasty ones of yesterday. Hilfenhaus would have liked it. Nasser Hussain, one of the more successful captains in India, has spoken about the importance of silencing the indian crowds. It was perhaps that silence that let Hilfenhaus think more clearly.

If this was going to be short, Sehwag was going to pull it in front of square: he was going to be ready deep in the crease. Sure enough the ball was short, but it was the slower bouncer, and Sehwag ended up dragging the pull straight into the lap of the man waiting in the deep. For a moment, only Hilfenhaus could be heard in a stadium holding at least 30,000 people. He deserved to be. He had out-thought the most destructive batsman in cricket today.

Australia had jolted everybody out of the Sehwag high. Not for the first time in the series, a team had come back with the other threatening to dominate. Had Sehwag stayed for much longer than those 28 balls, India would have come back holding the advantage. Had Sehwag not got off to that start, Australia's energies would have been completely different.

A little spell of play where Australia planned to trap Sehwag, who broke free, but was dismissed before he could cause irreversible damage, summed up the series beautifully. Seven days of the series have been over, and neither side can claim it dominated the other by the end of any of those days.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sundarraman on October 11, 2010, 6:35 GMT

    Sidharth, it was juz the sehwag instinct that brought his downfall... With an attacking player like Sehwag you will def'ly get a chance... Australians were juz lucky to get that chance early yesterday.... to call it was a well laid plan or bowler outsmarting the batsmen really sounds funny...

    I am sure Ponting and Hilfenhaus will be laughing reading this article...

    Grow up mate....

  • Dummy4 on October 11, 2010, 5:38 GMT

    Mr.Monga, Viru is not bothered by the your article like this.He will hit the same ball for six next time around.Plans don't don't worry noe they work against Viru.Viru just gifts his wicket.

  • Aiden on October 11, 2010, 4:33 GMT

    Why can't you accept that even good players can fall for traps. Even your god Sachin Tendulkar gets out to traps. Maybe it deserved to get hit for six but the fact is he was out.

  • Rajaram on October 11, 2010, 4:32 GMT

    Nathan Hauritz can't bowl,can't bat, can't field, can't throw - he was impotent in the Mohali Test where Indian spinners were potent. In the Bangalore Test, he missed an easy run-out of Vijay. He should be sacked.

  • Vinod on October 11, 2010, 4:24 GMT

    i would just say that they were lucky this time. but remember everyday is not sunday. aussies, try the same in the second innings, u will understand what i meant. having said that, i would say as a team, the young aussies are still the best, the next only to india. best wishes to ricky and his team.

  • Dummy4 on October 11, 2010, 4:12 GMT

    Extreme reactions are such a typically Indian/Pakistani/Sri Lankan way of dealing with cricket. That's the thing that foreign teams don't get when they tour in the sub-continent.

    So, Sehwag is either a "flat track bully" as @manasvi lingam put it or Bradman MkII. In reality he is neither. He is a good batsman with excellent reflexes and a keen eye. Technically not the best, but it's irrelevant. Since he was brought up on dead wickets, he is prone to the short ball; as most Indian batsmen are. He can be circumspect, but chooses not to be. He's entertaining and just needs to adapt to situations. If a team has truly figured him out then he will either have to change accordingly or lose his place in the XI.

    Let's put it this way, Sehwag maximizes his good patches unlike any other batsman. Maybe he ought to do ads for an Investment Banking firm?

  • nomi on October 11, 2010, 4:08 GMT

    Todays are the worst bowling attacks in the annals of cricket. When people like Sehwag with no foot movement or technique to smother either spin or play moving ball score 2 triple centuries, done so by Bradman only, and come close to hitting a 3rd, done by none, it speaks volumes for the crap which is being turned out in the name of bowling.

  • PC on October 11, 2010, 3:58 GMT

    @Ganes.V: "if you remove the big scores from his innings,his average becomes very poor" - this is so obvious and true for any player!!!

  • anil on October 11, 2010, 3:30 GMT

    Sehwag need to work hard on his stuff unlike SRT & Dravid - Who either work for their stats or past their prime. Sehwag has shown in the past that he can take it to the competetion and has scored home and away in siuations were other starwarts have failed mos of the time. Good luck too him.

  • Gaurav on October 11, 2010, 3:16 GMT

    @ Ganes - Few things you might want to consider before commenting:1. He never gets away with excuses. Everybody knows this is the way he plays n this is the reason why he is in the team. 2. He doesnt play like this to live up to the reputation of an attacking player. If u ever noticed, he never plays for reputations. Had that been the case he would have been more careful for making big scores. This is his style. 3. Are u kidding when u say, take out his big scores n his average is lower. Haha this is logic. Everybody will have lower average when high scores are taken out. 4. Do u think other captains are fools that they havent treid frustrating Sehwag !!! If this was to happen, they would have been successful atleast by end of 9 years. 5. The biggest thing : He is an IMPACT player and this is his role in the team. All batsment cannot play like Dravid. Both have different roles. U keep fearing that his career will end soon, n Viru will keep scoring the way he has been doing so far

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