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Home > India > Cricket > Column > Amit Masram

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Bowling made the difference

November 12, 2008

The farewell present could not have been sweeter for Sourav Ganguly [Images], with Mahendra Singh Dhoni's [Images] men claiming the Border Gavaskar trophy after a resounding win over Australia [Images] in the fourth Test at Nagpur and wrapping the series 2-0.

Ponting yet again called it wrong, to give India an advantage to bat first. Murali Vijay did not look overawed by the occasion, made a concrete 33 and gave much of the strike to Virender Sehwag [Images], who went berserk and gave a solid platform.

The good thing about the test match was all three results were likely till the start of day five and the track was still good to bat on, barring the odd rough area created by the bowlers' footmarks.

Tendulkar first forged a partnership with VVS Laxman and then with Ganguly to get India out of the woods, after being reduced to 116 for 3.Ponting had India in a spot of bother but did not have the resources to finish the job, as India went on to make 441, with Tendulkar crafting his 40th Test ton and Ganguly missing the hundred in his farewell Test by 15 runs.

The biggest difference between the two sides was the bowling attack. While Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan [Images] made inroads into the Australian top order, Brett Lee [Images] was off-colour and Mitchell Johnson bowled well in patches.

In the spin department, Jason Krezja astonished with his 12-wicket debut and raised questions as to why was  he not picked in the first place for the previous games. It was also heartening to see the line of attack and bounce extracted from the strip by the debutant spinner.

Ponting did not have enough faith in Cameron White, who was picked as a first-choice spinner, and Michael Clarke [Images] was given the ball ahead of him for most of the series, meant that subcontinent conditions were not exploited.

Zaheer and Ishant planted enough doubts with the reverse swing in the batsman's minds, Lee and company just looked clueless with no swing on offer for them while the Indian spinners kept the pressure on all the times. 

Ponting would not like to remember this series as he had more than one occasion to get back into the game, throughout the series, albeit the Mohali Test. With India sitting on a lead of 266 runs and four wickets in hand, Ponting had a great chance to skittle and square the series with a win, but to everybody's dismay he was concerned about improving the bowling rate and, in the process, India held its grip on the trophy.

Not to mention that earlier in the Bangalore Test, India were let off the hook with the Harbhajan- Zaheer association of 80 runs for the eighth wicket and the momentum quietly shifted towards the Indians after India was precariously placed at 155for 5, with the danger of follow-on looming large.

Here though once Ponting and Hayden were dismissed it just became more and more difficult as the Australians went for the target. Harbhajan picked four and Mishra had three Aussie wickets in the kitty.

The 'Prince of Kolkata' was dismissed first ball in his final innings, becoming only the second cricketer after England's [Images] Billy Griffith to score a century in his first Test innings and a duck in his last. He has gone on a high scoring 324 runs at 54 and, more significantly, stitched vital partnerships when the team needed them the most. Ponting will only loose sleep if he mulls over the squandered opportunities. India will have loads of positives to take while the Aussies will learn from the trip, especially their bowlers, as the only solace was Krezja induction to the Test level and Michael Hussey's consistency. The emergence of AMit Mishra after Anil Kumble's [Images] exit and captaincy of Dhoni will be keenly watched from here on.

Dhoni looked a man who anticipated the situations well, was inventive with his field placing and strategies more often than not. His tactics to bowl wide outside off stump on day three, when the Aussies had the momentum with them, showed results.

All the Tests were taken to final day, and except for the Mohali Test, which was one-way traffic, it was a good contest between the ball and bat, which augurs well for Test cricket, even if the crowds continued to desert.


Editor's note: Rediff believes that like its own editorial staffers, readers too have points of view on the many issues relating to cricket as it is played.

Therefore, Rediff provides in its editorial section space for readers to write in, with their views. The views expressed by the readers are carried as written, in order to preserve the original voice.

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