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The average fielding of this Indian side stood exposed today like an old wound that, with the precise placement and sharp running of the Australian batsmen, bled runs right through
October 10, 2008
The average fielding of this Indian side stood exposed today like an old wound that, with the precise placement and sharp running of the Australian batsmen, bled runs right through. Part of the problem was physical - the traditional laxity - and part mental, as they were simply outmanoeuvred.
A few minutes during the morning session summarised the mismatch: Michael Hussey drove the ball firmly towards the right of mid-off and pressurised the fielder by sprinting immediately; Sourav Ganguly got to the ball but let it through his fingers and between his legs for four. The next ball Brad Haddin pushed towards cover and ran so quickly he didn't need to ground his bat to beat Sachin Tendulkar's throw. In the next over Haddin played an off-drive and cruised through after Ganguly once again fumbled at mid-off.
The Australians ran 64 singles on the second day - Hussey was responsible for 41 - which formed 36% of the runs scored. Thirty-six of those came towards square leg, where the fielder was deep, and backward point. On the whole singles, twos and threes accounted for 225 out of the 415 runs - over 50% - scored off the bat in the innings.
The day began with Australia holding a slender advantage at 254 for 4 but it was nothing that early wickets, backed up by high-intensity fielding, couldn't nullify. Ishant Sharma duly delivered the strike, Shane Watson bowled by the new ball. Anil Kumble had only two slips and a gully for his fast bowlers at the start of the day, compared to three slips on day one. The second slip soon disappeared because the bounce on the pitch was low and the infield was standard apart from the occasional short cover or midwicket.
By pushing the field back, India played into Australia's hands. At one stage, when Ishant was bowling, the only fielder in the circle on the leg side was Ganguly at mid-on. It allowed Hussey, who loves to graft an innings, the freedom to nudge and run at will. At other times Harbhajan Singh had a long leg, deep midwicket and long on, leaving gaping holes in the infield.
Not that Hussey and Haddin were deterred when the majority of the fielders were in the circle. An infield picked from Ganguly, Zaheer, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Harbhajan and Ishant rivals Pakistan as arguably the most sluggish in Test cricket. India's quickest movers were stationed behind the stumps (Dhoni) and at short leg (Gambhir).
Even when boundaries were far between, the Australians, as on the first day, were constantly on the lookout for singles. They were so confident that they didn't need to call most of the time: they merely tapped it a few feet to either side or slowly towards a fielder and set off. The longest period without a run on the second day was only 11 balls between overs 120.6 and 122.4.
The Indian innings has only just started but, in comparison, Gambhir and Sehwag scored primarily through boundaries: running between the wickets contributed only 33% of the total. It is an imbalance the Indian batsmen will have to redress, before their fielders attempt to reduce the margin of Australia's advantage in the second innings.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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