Happy Diwali to any Indian ex-pat Sluggerites out there. The smog from millions of fireworks lingering over Delhi didn’t affect the Indian top-order’s sighting of the ball as having won the toss in the third test, they reached stumps on 296-3 with Gautam Gambhir unbeaten through the day on 149*. The Australians (as I’m sure Kevin Pietersen is noting in his bed in the Caribbean) do not appear to be able to do anything about it.
UpdateNew Zealand draw the rain affected 2nd Test against Bangladesh in Mirpur to take the series 1-0.After losing Sehwag and Dravid to the new ball, Gambhir settled in while Tendulkar played a cameo innings of great quality to remind us why he is the best since Bradman. The little master’s powers have been on the wane for some time but he took the impetus away from the Aussie bowlers and made them toil in the heat and humidity. Ponting appeared powerless to change things in his favour and waited an eternity to put some spin on – it was very obvious, very quickly why that was the case as Tendulkar and Gambhir tucked into leggie Cameron White with relish, removing him from the attack after just 4 overs. After Johnson removed Tendulkar, Gambhir took charge with Laxman in support and reached a fabulous ton smashing Shane Watson over long on for a maximum. Stuart Clark deserves a mention in dispatches for his donkey work of 21 wicketless overs at a miserly economy rate of 1.38 but Australia tired in the final session conceding 138 for no return in the right hand column.
While Australia are not out of this game or the series yet, they are right behind the 8 ball and Ponting needs quick wickets tomorrow morning and roll the Indians for 450 to have any chance of turning things around. India proved in the last series between the sides that they would not capitulate under what Steve Waugh euphemistically called “mental disintegration” (ie bullying, sledging and aggression) and like any bully, the Aussie side have not like it dished out to them cf Harbhajan in Sydney, “racially abusing” Andrew Symonds (who last time I looked had a pretty similar skin tone), never mind the glaring hypocrisy of constant baiting of the “Poms” that has been conveniently overlooked as “banter” and “part of the game”. Some more unpleasantness was evident today after Gambhir barged Watson out of the way (naughty) and Katich returned in kind, clearly obstructing Gambhir attempting a run and forcing Billy Bowden to step between them. Both will have their collars felt by Chris Broad at the end of the game.
Ponting’s side have done their best to cover up the loss of Langer, Gilchrist, McGrath & Warne in the last couple of years but are now exposed with no front line spin option after the retirement of MacGill and Lee and Clark unable to provide wickets with the new ball. The more irate they get with the Indians, the more desperate they seem like a formerly powerful dictator hanging on desperately to the last vestiges of power. The axis of world cricket supremacy is tilting to the sub-continent and the mask has slipped from the Australians.
England may enter next summer’s Ashes with renewed optimism but they too have to travel to India this winter. They have been granted 2 Tests (in the middle of nowhere) to Australia’s 4. England got beaten by the Proteas this summer who meet the Aussies home and away this winter. Are the 2009 Ashes soon to be devalued as merely the title clash in the second division of world cricket?