India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 3rd day March 16, 2013

Dhawan the villain in another Australian horror show

Not for the first time in recent Tests, Australia received a hammering from a ruthless, risk-free innings
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As he walked off the field at the end of his first day of batting in Test cricket, Shikhar Dhawan gave his impressive moustache a twirl. It's the kind of facial hair you expect to see on a movie villain and in the minds of Australia's bowlers, that's exactly what Dhawan was today. Every spectator at the Punjab Cricket Association Ground, Indian or not, was enthralled by Dhawan's scene-stealing performance. But for Australia's players, it was a horror film from which they could not escape.

Dhawan's innings was exquisite. It wasn't just the record of being the fastest century ever by a player on Test debut. It was the way he scored his runs. His placement was impeccable. If there was a gap, he found it. Thirty-three boundaries attest to his precision. There were wonderful back-foot drives of which Ricky Ponting would have been proud, drives through cover, cuts, glances, all class. He reached a hundred from 85 balls but did it without hitting in the air.

He was breathtaking, but Australia have been here before, and a little too recently for comfort. Hashim Amla destroyed them at the WACA in December with a similarly sublime innings, ruthless yet risk-free. Amla's hundred came from 87 balls and he destroyed them through the leg side, even if they bowled outside off. Here, Dhawan's strength was the off side and while it is possible that in form like this he was simply untouchable, the Australians could have asked more questions of his leg-side play.

After India finished the day at 283 for 0 and Dhawan went to stumps on 185 from 168 balls, Mitchell Starc was asked what the Australians could have done differently. He noted that Dhawan was so strong through the off side that even an off-stump line was probably granting him too much width. But then where do you bowl? It's a very fine line finding the right line to a batsman like Dhawan, but testing him more on middle and leg might have been wise.

Consider this: of the 185 runs that Dhawan scored, only 27 of them came through leg against the seamers or Nathan Lyon - that is, excluding when the ball was spinning in to him. When Xavier Doherty and Steven Smith were on, Dhawan was happy to pull or work the ball to leg, but much less so against anyone else. A consistent leg-stump line might have been defensive, but in the form Dhawan was in it was worth a try with a few catching men on that side.

So far in this series, the Australian attack has been less successful than any Australian bowling unit ever to visit India.

It may not have worked. But good attacks find ways to create chances even if the conditions don't suit or a batsman threatens to have a day out. The only chance Australia created on the third day of this match was a Mankad from the first ball of the innings, and it was accidental. Amla in Perth, MS Dhoni in Chennai, Dhawan in Mohali - the list of batsmen who have created horror days in the field for Michael Clarke's Australians in the past few months is growing a little too quickly for comfort.

It hasn't helped that Australia's spinners have been ineffective. And when it has come to choosing the slow bowlers, there have been more flip-fops at the Australian selection table than there are in a Havaianas factory. In Chennai, Australia chose only Nathan Lyon and he was mauled by Dhoni. In Hyderabad they used Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell, who went wicketless on the only day that mattered. Here, they have employed Lyon and Doherty and it was all the same story.

Australia's spinners don't have the guile and variation required to succeed in India, or at least they haven't been allowed to display it. An enormous part of the problem is of course that India's batsmen are so adept at playing spin. It's as if their first steps as toddlers must have been down the wicket. Dhawan and M Vijay were no different in this innings, confidently advancing to Lyon and Doherty and dispatching them with breathtaking ease.

Lyon went at 4.6 an over, Doherty cost 5.7 an over and three tripe-filled overs from Steven Smith leaked eight an over. Perhaps they will improve on the fourth day, but the damage has been done. Australia had to win this Test to have any chance of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and a first-innings of 408 at least gave them something to bowl at. So far, the bowlers haven't been up to it.

Of course, the selectors didn't help themselves by banning James Pattinson, their best bowler of the series, over the so-called homework task. It was a decision made for long-term gain, but they are now experiencing the inevitable short-term pain. Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson might not regret their lapse, if it means avoiding a hiding. But this is far from the first day of the tour that has provided headaches for Clarke in the field.

So far in this series, the Australian attack has been less successful than any Australian bowling unit ever to visit India. As things stood at stumps on day three, their collective strike-rate was 102.81 for the series. That equates to a wicket every 17 overs. Keep that up and they'll be in the field for 170 overs per innings.

It might improve if they can find some traction on day four, but for now it is an atrocious record. By comparison, the struggling team led by Ricky Ponting in 2008 toiled for 87.57 balls per wicket. The victorious side under Adam Gilchrist in 2004 broke through every 50.26 deliveries. Wickets win matches. Wicketless days usually lead to defeats.

Perhaps their only blessing is that the washed-out first day has left them with a decent chance of salvaging a draw. The series is gone, but from here a draw would be a positive step. Surely things can only improve after the horror movie they witnessed on day three in Mohali. Can't they?

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • HatsforBats on March 17, 2013, 13:54 GMT

    @ Deepushanmukh, if you read my comments again you'll see that I have not criticised or complained about the pitches presented on this tour. I have merely stated that as a spectator I prefer watching seam & spin bowling have equal assistance over five days (a common occurrence on Australian pitches). I agree with you, the Aus selectors are completely at fault for not having selected either the best or form spinners for this tour. Doherty is not test standard, as is readily apparent by his FC record, and Maxwell & Smith are part-timers at best. I do believe Lyon is our best spinner and he has a lot of talent, unfortunately since his debut he has begun bowling consistently quicker and with less flight, presumably at the behest of the coaching staff and his own lack of intelligence.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on March 17, 2013, 10:23 GMT

    This tour is one endless horroshow for Australia, theyve spent the last year playing minnow sides liek themselves and now they finally cpme up against the top 6 teams in the world and they struggle big time.

  • dummy4fb on March 17, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    @big boodha: australia produced fair pitches?!?!!? did any australian pitch turned?!?!?!dont say warnie turned nu..after his retirement u ppl are searching for spinners oly if u guys produce a rack which spins u can identify a spinner otherwise u'll be left with lyon and doherts who r gud at throwing darts rather than spinning the ball

  • HatsforBats on March 17, 2013, 9:10 GMT

    @ AnoopKerala, as per my previous statement, a pitch should assist pace and spin over five days. If a team consisted of four spinners & one quick the pitch is obviously not going to assist seam bowling. Sydney, Adelaide and the gabba all support spin bowling and Australia has produced the greatest leg spinners. For the record, I have no issue with the pitches produced in this series and I am not blaming them for the collective abject batting performances of the Australian team.

  • deepushanmukh on March 17, 2013, 8:42 GMT

    @hatsforbats: it is not fair to complain about the pitch, everyone in the world knows Indian pitches are meant for spinners, like Australian pitches meant for seamers, so knowing the fact about spinning in India, you guys should have picked ur quality spinners, u can't ask much from ur pace bowlers, u can't expect them to blow off the stumps where there isn't much for them...well, when india tours a nation like Australia, they choose the best of their seamers. coz they know spinners can't get wickets there...ur selection committee should have been more considerative to spinners...it's like a kid bringing a hockey stick while he is playing soccer....

  • HatsforBats on March 17, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    @Aditya Anchuri, why did Warne struggle in India? Apparently because curators in India believe it is fair to manipulate specific areas of the pitch to nullify any movement he might have achieved. Fair play?

  • VivGilchrist on March 17, 2013, 7:28 GMT

    I hope I get published as I only have a 25% success rate. Poor selections have led to where Australia is right now. To have Doherty picked ahead of OKeefe (Australas best performed domestic spinner by a mile) smacks of bias and arrogance on behalf of the selectors. The less said of suspending Pattinson (Aus best bowler on tour) the better. Khawaja surely would have passed Hughes 2 runs also. Not choosing an experiences head to cover Hussey and taking a spare keeper in a squad of 17 also defies belief. This team is screaming out for Boof Lehmann.

  • Great_Chucker on March 17, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    @popcorn Swann and Panesar Better than Warne..that's is the biggest joke of century...English got lucky cause of the Shewag & Gambhir pair not working ..... spirit of the game of cricket crap...Ian bell incident during india's tour of England, Ricky pointing ,Sysmond not walking even after knicking the ball when batting...Aussies have to win even in Indian conditions to be called a gr8 team...

    @TheBigBoodha worry about your own team mate ..they can't win against minnows even after their curator preparing 600+ pitch

  • GRVJPR on March 17, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha Then ask your curators to create extra green green tops. Would only benefit our bowlers. In past India used to play only 1 fast bowlers in australia, england etc and 3 spinners. So obviously the opponents batting looked better having not to face seamers themselves. Also who forget hooror show of australia "49 all out" against likes of steyn, morkel. Atleast India returned with a respectable 1-1 draw series from south africa.

  • AnoopKerala on March 17, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    I found some comic comments of Australians. HatsforBats said " Pitches that don't support fully half the bowling skill set of cricket are less interesting to me as a spectator". The thing is that you people (England & Australia) set the world cricket by using 4 seamers and 1 spinner. Why can't you use 4 spinners and 1 seamer? The answer is simple. You have pitches supporting quicks only. Shane Warne is a genius and so only he is a success. Even England cricket team now adopt to play spin pitches. They have quality spin playing batsman like KP, Bell, Trescothik etc. But Aussies, South Africans & Newzelanders are still not trying to make changes in their batting set up. Even India & Sri Lanka tried to adopt fast tracks. The problem is it is the survival of the fittest only. So play in a cricket pitch, don't complain greeny or dusty.