January 8, 2012 by dixwah
Second Test, SCG: Australia defeated India by an innings and 68 runs to take a 2-0 series lead
It’s easy to forget that just two weeks ago we lost to New Zealand. New Zealand!?! Apparently some guy named Donnie Braxwell or something took six wickets, and our batting order contained three guys named old, out-of-form and Phillip Hughes.
Well a lot’s changed since then. After a confidence boosting win in Melbourne, it’s possible to say Australia turned the corner in Sydney.
Michael Clarke was undoubtedly the star, smashing an unbeaten 329 to break India’s hearts before removing Sachin Tendulkar for good measure. He is Australia’s best player and is growing into the captaincy and growing on the Australian public. Runs weigh more than words; it’s not a popularity contest, but if it helps him feel comfortable, good luck to him.
Australia has a history of picking popular captains who are (generally batting) leaders of their team. Clarke has been an indispensable member of the team for years, but was out-of-form when he inherited the big c. It had been 19 innings since a century when he started flipping the coin, and he’s responded in the way the team required, this was his fourth ton in 9 Tests since taking over.
Like an ageing brickie with an ailing back, Ricky Ponting’s eye has left him but his will remains. With 34 innings between hundreds, he no longer warranted a position, but rather was being selected on memories of past masterpieces. But we can’t drop Punter – remember Old Trafford 2005.
I rate this innings right up there with Ponting’s other classics. I’d written him off, and still consider him well past his best, but he was never going to be denied here. It seems Ponting won’t go quietly, heres’s hoping he will contribute a little more regularly as was hoped when he was relieved of the captaincy burden.
Then there’s Mike Hussey. Hussey was Australia’s top batsmen in 2011, and won the series in Sri Lanka by himself. He missed out against the Proteas and Black Caps, and there was a perception he was done and dusted. The pressure was on here, Ponting had consolidated his spot and Hussey was next in the queue to walk the plank.
This wasn’t backs-against-the-wall, chips are down stuff, but a great knock all the same. Hussey proved in Sydney that he still has much to offer.
While the batsmen took the glory here, for me it was the bowlers who set the game up. To dismiss the star-studden Indian batting line-up for 191 after winning the toss was an excellent effort. We were only recently discussing Australia’s inability to take 20 wickets, now that’s a given, we just need batsmen who can score more runs than our opponents.
Pattinson was brilliant, he is quick, imposing and relentless; an ugly fast bowler in a non-Merv way. His injury is his team’s loss but apparently there’s now depth. Ryan Harris off the bench is an unbelievable luxury, but another fall from him could spell his end.
Hilfenhaus has got his mojo back. He took another eight wickets in Sydney, and if his off-cutter to dismiss Dravid was a beauty, the leg-cutter to get rid of Laxman was from another planet.
Siddle is ‘the guy who runs in all day’. Unfortunately that’s his tag and unless Andy Bichel, his toiling predecessor and now selector sees a bit of lovechild in the man from Morwell, he could be the unlucky one when Pattinson and Cummins eventually return. He has done all he can though, his pace is up on last season and he is now able to dismiss top-order players.
In applauding Australia’s efforts, India were absolutely disgraceful here. More on that tomorrow. Australia aren’t completely out of the woods yet though. The top-order is still in doubt, Brad Haddin did the unthinkable and dropped a catch, and Nathan Lyon seems to lack the confidence of his captain.
But the lack of ruthlessness that saw them miss out in their previous series seems back. Australia turned the knife in Sydney, the pace barrage in Perth awaits.