Last night, fresh off a breakthrough test ton against the Aussies, young Indian batsman Virat Kohli committed the touring player’s cardinal sin. He complained about sledging. There is absolutely no good that can come of this; the Australian public will get on your back, the whole cricket world will sense a weakness, and even worse, you could really be in for a barrage if you were to, say, run yourself out in the second last over of the day.
It was a bizarre conclusion to a day that saw the Indians offered their final chance at salvation in the series. There was little to gain for the Indian bowlers, as the morning session was always going to be a walk in the park leading up to a declaration. Michael Clarke missed out in this innings, although replays would prove that the noise heard as the ball passed him through to the keeper probably wasn’t the bat. Mike Hussey fell cheaply as well, trapped in front by Ishant Sharma for 15. Ricky Ponting kept up his form though, bringing up another seemingly effortless test 50. Brad Haddin joined him just before lunch, and not longer after, with the lead at 499, Clarke called them in.
The declaration wasn’t without mild controversy though, as a visibly frustrated Clarke was more than a little aggressive in his calling of the Aussie’s innings. It appeared as if he wasn’t satisfied with the run rate that Ponting and Haddin were creating, especially after Clarke lost his wicket selflessly trying to advance the side’s position. I mentioned in my day 2 review that the Australian public was getting frustrated with Haddin’s selfish batting, and he would have done little to endear himself further with this knock. It seems he’ll go down swinging with the side on the ropes, but protect the average when we need a bit of firepower.
The Australians had left themselves more than a session and a half to hit the Indians as hard as they could today. The pitch was flat, the conditions were perfect for batting, and almost the entirety of the Indian batting line up was well overdue for some runs. Ryan Harris had other ideas, though, and found the edge of Gambhir early, sending him on his way for 3. Rahul Dravid joined Virender Sehwag at the crease, and Sehwag allowed himself the freedom to counter attack. He was streaky at times, at his best at others, and managed to compile a much needed 62 off just 53 balls. His dismissal wasn’t from the copybook though, as he somehow managed to find a way to turn a Nathan Lyon full toss into a wicket taking ball. Lyon looked a little embarrassed to have taken a wicket with such a ball, but his embarrassment would have soon turned to elation as one of the world’s most dangerous stroke makers was dismissed.
Dravid was the next to fall only 20 runs later, falling to a horribly loose shot outside the off stump. While part of him would have been relieved that he didn’t get bowled again, Dravid must have instantly regretted his decision making as the catch flew quickly to Hussey at gully. By now centre stage had been afforded to Sachin Tendulkar however, with the stage apparently set for the grandest of hundreds for the little master. Surely he would save the best until last? Surely he could pull off one more miracle and save the test for his country? Surely he wouldn’t edge one off Lyon and get caught at bat pad? In short; no he wouldn’t, no he couldn’t, and yes he would. He trudged off a defeated man, leaving an Australian pitch as a test batsman one last time. The contrasting emotion was available on Lyon’s face as he claimed a huge, and much needed scalp. In truth, he has bowled very well all summer, and is moulding himself into a world class off spinner. Finally in this innings, he is getting some statistical support as well.
From this point on, the day got a little bizarre. VVS Laxman and Kohli came to the crease and began to compile a decent partnership. The pitch was still good, the weather would be fine tomorrow, and these two batsmen both knew how to bat for long periods of time in Australia. It would only take one excellent partnership, and the draw would be back on the cards. Just as it looked like the two of them would get through to stumps, Laxman chipped Nathan Lyon straight to Shaun Marsh at short midwicket. He could not have picked him out better if he tried, and even had to negotiate the ball from the off in order to get it to Marsh. Again an Indian batsman had fallen to an apparent lapse of concentration this summer, and the punishment wasn’t to end there.
Ishant Sharma came out as nightwatchman and was immediately greeted with a barrage of fielders in close. He survived the rest of that over, and was left to negotiate two more with Kohli. Now it is generally accepted that the main function of the nightwatchman is to protect the senior bats as the close of play approaches. Someone should probably have made sure Kohli was aware of this fact, as he proceeded to then play out the first 5 balls of the over, and then desperately look to regain the strike for the next over. Only he didn’t count on Ben Hilfenhaus pulling out a once-in-a-fast-bowler’s-career style run out. Throwing almost directly behind himself, he managed to hit one stump and leave Kohli inches short, extinguishing any last hope India had.
Through a combination of good Australian bowling and frequent Indian brain fades, this test is as good as done. A certain level of congratulations should be sent to the Indians for at least pushing this to a fifth day for the first time this summer, but then again, it would probably be over had Clarke enforced the follow on. Miss the first few overs and you might not see any cricket at all tomorrow.