I'll explain. The first saving act was performed by Andrew Symonds - fast becoming Cricket's biggest cry-baby. That one came with a lot of help from the men in white and black. But the second one came with Australia staring down a rare first innings deficit of 49 run and on 90 for two. Captain Ponting had just exited the field, the new batsman in was Mike Hussey, coming off of shaky performances in the first Test. Australia's best batsman Matthew Hayden was beginning to feel the tightness in his back and Harbhajan was ascendant and fizzing the ball off the rough.
Here, the tactics of the Indian bowlers seemed straightforward enough. Spin the ball off the rough and force the batsmen to make a mistake. Knowing the penchant of the Australian's to score quickly, this seemed to be a useful strategy. Thus, Harbhajan gave up all hopes of an LBW decision by pitching the ball outside leg and turning it across the left handers.
And this is where the Australians surprised the Indians. They batted patiently - not worried about putting runs on the board at all. Instead they defended stoutly, Hayden with more confidence than Hussey, and took their singles when they presented themselves. Hayden, in particular, played with soft hands - careful not to mishit anything to the fielders. And with Harbhajan's line - getting him out was impossible unless the batsman made a mistake.
By the time Harbhajan switched back to bowling over the wicket - which predictably resulted in less turn - both had got their eye in and tided over a delicate period for Australia. The pair put on 160 and took the game away from India.
This was the only aspect of the Australian performance that I truly enjoyed in the second Test. As far as playing in the spirit of the game goes, Peter English in his piece on Cricinfo finally puts into words what Dad has been saying for years:
Australians see catching differently to appealing and walking. They say it's up to the umpire to decide on edges and lbws, but when it comes to knowing whether a ball has carried, the fielder is the best person to judge. What they miss is that both arguments are about telling the truth. Why should Clarke be trusted to rule on a potentially match-turning catch when he stayed at the crease on day four after edging a ball to first slip?
Still I believe the Indian team is fighting a losing battle here. This argument over sledging - or as I like to call it: Australia's plan B - needs to be fought in the board rooms and not on the field when its much too late.
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