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Australia lacks a quality spinner

October 23, 2008

India has badly dented Australian confidence by presenting them a biggest defeat. Everything fell in place since the toss; Dhoni [Images] looked a completely different man once the extra responsibility was provided.

The strip was 'bat first' and India were right on top, barring that session post-lunch on Day 1, when they lost three wickets. Milestones were reached, as Tendulkar eclipsed the great Brian Lara's [Images] record for most number of runs in Test cricket and Ganguly scaled the 7,000 runs mark.

All Indian batsman got starts and it was Ganguly who compiled his 16th Test ton, with remarkable focus. Dhoni played with aggression and that allowed Ganguly to anchor the Indian innings.

Australia [Images] is in unfamiliar territory as they go to Delhi [Images] one down in the series.

While Ponting's flaw against in-swingers has been accentuated by Ishant, Hayden continues his ordinary outings and seems vulnerable as never before. The biggest difference between the sides was the movement the Indian seamers managed. While the Indian fielders worked on the ball and kept shine intact on one side, and the other side rough, to get the reverse swing going, the Australians bowlers did not. The movement really eluded them in the first innings; perhaps they aren't accustomed to the SG ball. Troy Cooley, their bowling coach, would have made some notes on that.

Zaheer and Ishant probed away outside off and the spinners kept the pressure on. Harbhajan has been flighting the ball a lot more than he has in recent times while Australia's batsmen haven't yet come to terms with Mishra's variations. As a result, Australia never stitched partnerships.

Mishra too has been a handful, picking seven scalps on debut. Ishant just looks natural to hit the good length spot at all times, without much effort.

Team composition is what will give Ponting sleepless nights, as he doesn't have a quality spinner in his cupboard; his yearning for Michael Clark has not done any good to White's confidence.

It was good to see Dhoni shelving his century plans in the larger good of the team. It was a glorious win and everybody played their part, Gambhir scoring his first century against the Aussies and his mate missing out in what would have been an ideal way to celebrate his 30th birthday.

Australia has everything to play for as they go to the drawing room to get their act together. A well-earned draw and an emphatic win have given India all the momentum, while Ponting will be under pressure at Delhi to deliver the goods.

Nevertheless, the quest to discover the secrets of reverse-swing continues. For Australia have yet again revisited the English summer of 2005, where they were exposed to "reverse swing syndrome".

The Kotla track is a happy hunting ground for Kumble, and he should captain the side coming Wednesday. The venue traditionally assists spinners and the bounce gets lower as the game progresses, with first half promoting the faster men .

While Dhoni looked in firm control and was intelligent with the field placing when things did not happen, Ponting lacked imagination and was a touch defensive. Having said that, make no mistake, the Aussies will come hard at the Indians, but for that to happen, Lee and Hayden will have to come to the party.

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