Melbourne Test poised for exciting finish

Melbourne test in an interesting position

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Melbourne Test poised for exciting finish

Hussey (far right) in the slips cordon against India in the 2nd Test at the SCG in 2008
Hussey (far right) in the slips cordon against India in the 2nd Test at the SCG in 2008 | Source

Melbourne Test poised for exciting finish

Hussey and Ponting steady the Aussie innings from collapse

India-Australia first test at Melbourne is poised for an interesting finish at the end of the third day. At the end of the third day, Australia are 179 for 8 wickets. Mike Hussey and Pattinson are at the crease. Australia took a lead of 51 runs in their first innings over India after bowling out the remaining Indian batsmen for 282 before lunch. At one stage Australia looked lost with its score reading a pathetic 27 for 4 because of Indian pace bowler Umesh Yadav striking vital blows. But the former captain Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey settled down in a 115 runs partnership for the fifth wicket which steadied Australian innings. It remained me the Madras Test of 1969-70 when Australia was 26 for 6 when the Australian opener Ian Redpath steadied the innings with a contribution of 75.

Had Zaheer struck, it could have turned the tables for India

India, in my opinion, missed a good chance. Had Zaheer Khan struck at this stage after all the damage done by Yadav, India would have been in a commanding position right now at the end of the third day. But alas, the 115 run partnership just took the comfort from India. Now Australia has a lead of 230. Whatever happens, tomorrow, the fourth day, promises an interesting play.

Early morning dew plays spoilsport for India

The early morning dew assisted the Aussie bowlers to bundle out the Indian main batsmen. I thought that Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman would bat through the first session and steer India to a comfortable position. I calculated that if India batted the whole of the third day, it could pressurise Australia to even an innings defeat. But the morning dew spoiled all these dreams. By the same token, tomorrow morning should see the fall of the remaining two Aussie wickets early. That means India should be given a winning target of around 250 runs.

250 runs is not easy to score on the fourth day at MCG

250 runs to chase in a test match with full two days remaining seems an easy task and India should win this test. But it is an oversimplification to say that India has got a win in its pocket already. 250 runs in the fourth innings on Melbourne or Sydney track is not easy to score. Even 200 runs is difficult to achieve on this deadly track which could turn to favour the spinners. But Australia has at present only one spinner namely Nathan Lyon who has no great experience in bundling out batsmen on turning tracks. Moreover, Indian batsmen like Virat Kohli are better equipped to tackle spin than pace. This could add an advantage to India particularly taking into account the fact that Nathan Lyon could not take any wicket during the first innings.

Prasanna, Bedi and Chandra bundled out Australia in 1978

But experience or no experience, Melbourne track will itself present a challenge to the chasing side in the fourth innings on the fourth and fifth day. I remember the Indian spinners Prasanna, Bedi and Chandrasekhar bundling out Australian batsmen in the fourth innings in both Melbourne and Sydney in the 1978 series when Bobby Simpson was the Australian captain. These tracks have not changed much since then and the curator always prepares the pitches in the same pattern.

Sehwag should give a fiery start

Everything depends on how smart a start Virender Sehwag gives to India on the fourth day, overcoming the morning dew. It also depends on how steady the two sheet anchors of Indian innings namely Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman cope up with the Aussie bowling attack. As time is on their card, there is no need to hurry through the innings to score runs. Of course, Virender Sehwag is a compelling hitter under any circumstance and he is an exception to the rule. Whether Sachin Tendulkar will succeed on the fourth day is doubtful because in my assessment, Tendulkar is capable of scoring good runs on a good batting pitch without any pressure, preferably in the first innings. But he mostly fails to come up when faced with pressure and the task of scoring to steer India to win. This is the characteristic of all Mumbai players including Sunil Gavaskar but excluding Dilip Vengsarkar.

Heart longs for India, mind points out to Australia

What about my prediction? As an Indian, my heart wants India to win. But something in my mind says that the Aussies will have an upper hand and win this test to take a 1-0 lead. If my prediction fails to happen, I will only be too glad. Best wishes to Dhoni and Clarke to provide excellent entertainment to the cricket fans. I look forward to getting up early morning 5 am to watch the proceedings in the comforts of my house before the TV screen.

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