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An Aussie view of the Chennai test

By Lee Grant
October 18 2004

It’s a pity for true cricket lovers about the weather, but it means that Oz will win the series if they win 1 of the 2 remaining tests. Geez, that was easy to type out. I saw a bit of the 3rd day when Oz was in. Then on the 4th day I sit down with some of the men-folk at the family gathering who managed to smuggle a small TV into a room and I wondered why they were showing a replay of Martyn and Gillespie batting from the afternoon before. I asked if it’s raining in Chennai and Martyn gets out and the penny dropped - they had been batting all day. Then Gillespie gets out and I’m asked to leave the room because I am bad luck, but I saw most of the last session, which I found to be breathtaking.

Here are some unconnected thoughts on the Chennai test:

• I thought the changes for the Indians on the 5th day would have been about 2 out of 3 to win, but if Sehwag were taken cheaply it would be 50/50. Thus I think that the probability of India winning was just less than 60%.

• Both sides are to be commended for coming back when things looked bad. The Oz bowlers came back in the first India innings until Patel and Kaif put their heads down. I thought India scored too many for us in the first knock but Oz had a chance when they overcame the deficit at the end of day 3 and still had 6 wickets left.

I thought we needed a lead of 250, though that was unlikely. I missed the long partnership but I am proud of the boys. Long partnerships when behind has not been a noted attribute of our recent teams. Then Harbhajan and Kumble come back for India when we looked like we might get on top, and they poke India slightly ahead in my view at the end of the 4th day. It was like a football match.

• I was flabbergasted when Gilchrist came on to bat when Langer was dismissed in the 2nd innings. He seemed to handle everything well but then I thought our chances were gone when he was dismissed being obviously dog-tired and not getting a pad to the ball outside leg-stump.

• Both sides missed chances, but from an Oz point of view the dropping of Kaif, who went on to score another 60 or so runs was the key miss. Our ‘slipping’ in particular has gone downhill and we remember fondly the days of Taylor at 1st and Mark Waugh at 2nd.

• No doubt the performance of Patel behind the stumps has been discussed at length in the Indian media. I saw him in Sydney and he was pretty bad but the problem is that he is even worse now. Gilchrist is no great shakes and is rated only equal 4th in Australia, (well make that equal 3rd now because Berry has retired), but he looks like a good test keeper compared to poor young Parthiv. Sure he has done good things with the bat, but consider him as a batsman only for now. Make him play a lot more domestic FC cricket when it starts in India and keep him out of the remaining tests against Oz and the Proteas, except as a batsman only if you think he is good enough.

• It was a great innings by Martyn in those circumstances. Don’t mention this to Brad Hogg but batsmen in Oz don’t learn to play spin much in Perth because most of the good ones head east, like MacGill did. They move because it’s easier to earn a living where the ball turns a bit.

Thus Martyn didn’t get much exposure to good spinners there and even the good ones from the east weren’t that scary when they visited because of the flat hard decks. When he came back into the Oz side a few years ago he was behind most of the other specialist batsmen facing elite spinners. He earned his stripes against Murali and others in a couple of innings in SL this year and got his 3rd stripe in Chennai. Call him Sergeant Martyn.

• Full marks to Dizzy too. His innings was more important to the Oz cause than many bowling stints he has had. I’d like to know why he is so hairy in the hot conditions. Surely there’s a marketing opportunity for a company that sells razor blades in India.

• As in Bangalore, I don’t think the toss had any bearing in the game though maybe it would have on a 5th day. The Aussies found it easier to bat on the 3rd and 4th day than the 1st when they couldn’t handle the bounce off the pitch from man-of-the match Kumble. Who knows if they would have done better in the first innings had they lost the toss and batted second? And congrats to the great man by the way for his bag of wickets - what a bowler.

• That was a great knock from Sehwag in the first innings but the other specialist batsmen look very tentative, especially our bogeymen Laxman and Dravid. Ganguly and Yuvraj are looking very fragile, but well done Kaif, after the let-off.

• All of the Oz bats got some kind of score in one of the innings. I’m starting to think that Clarke really does have the goods and that Brad Hodge will never get his chance. Ponting is said to be a possibility for the 4th test but he should stay at home and have a game for Tasmania if there is one scheduled when his thumb is right. On the same subject: is Tendy really a possibility for Nagpur or is it being mentioned to sell tickets?

• The Oz bowlers bowled well for most of the first innings. Only Sehwag had their measure and Patel and Kaif survuved well. The heat seemed to get the better of McGrath but Kaspro bowled well without luck, Gillespie looked more potent that in Bangalore and Warne had one of his best tests in India, though that is not a great compliment.

• This Oz team did not play perfect cricket and often played poor cricket on the first day, but they give me the feeling that they are playing smarter cricket than they did on the last tour. Expect some smart cricket in Nagpur too and evidence that lessons they have learned in Chennai get carried forward.

• Shepherd is not a great umpire these days as Koertzen is, but they both had good matches in my view. Because there was more bounce from the deck there were fewer lbw shouts and fewer bad decisions. For me, only Kaspro’s dismissal in the second innings looked as though it might have been suss. Maybe. I looked like just missing leg but I didn’t see a side-on view to see how far the ball had to travel. What a change from Bangalore.

The players made it easy for the umpires by walking and I can’t remember a player not walking who nicked or gloved the ball though I didn’t see all the dismissals or incidents.

Could players from Australia and India start a world trend? Let’s hope so.

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