Day 2 at the MCG, bathed in beautiful sunshine, was a picture perfect day for cricket, and the cricket matched the conditions. There was beautiful batsmanship, sustained aggressive bowling, and the match hanging in balance (or perhaps slightly tilted in the favor of the visitors depending on whom you ask), and I got to watch it all unfold from right next to the sightscreen, thanks to a heads up from a friend.
This tour Down Under has already been so remarkably different for India from the 4-0 whipping in England earlier this year. It is a wonderful sight for an Indian fan to see Zaheer Khan getting back the rhythm and masterfully manipulate the ball. The fact that all the Indian fast bowlers made through the first innings unscathed and seem to be bowling well (some more than the other) already has overshadowed the accomplishment of the bowling unit in England and promises much more.
Rahul Dravid started quick but slipped in to the Dravid mode of accumulation and Sehwag was just, well, Sehwag. Even though I was sat in the first row and had a great view of the action, I can’t recollect many of the shots that Sehwag and Dravid played. There was that slapping of Ben Hilfenhaus through the cover region when Sehwag threw the kitchen sink (and some) at it. There was the usual “Spinners don’t deserve to exist” treatment meted out to Nathan Lyon. There was a wonderful flick of the wrist from Dravid, placing the ball ever so precisely to excruciatingly elude the diving mid-on fielder, for a marvelous boundary.
But Sehwag’s 67 and the unbeaten 68 from Dravid were overshadowed and left in the dust by a masterful show put on by the greatest of them all. A bit edgy perhaps for the few deliveries he faced before the tea break, Sachin Tendulkar in the post-tea session put on a display of cricketing shots of the highest quality making my 11,000 miles trip worth every cent and every aching muscle in my body. The audacity of Tendulkar’s genius was there for all to see with an arched back upper cut off the first delivery after the tea break and the magnificence of his batsmanship conveyed with a straight drive to die for. Paisa Wasool. There were a couple of turf searing cover drives and some elegant maneuvering of the field with finely played flicks and glides too!
James Pattinson was remarkable with his pace (hovering in the high 140ks most of the time) and accuracy for two sessions and change. He looked to be most threatening of the Australian bowlers and most capable of dislodging the Indian giants. It was a crime that he bowled only 15 of the 65 overs on the day due to some rather questionable captaincy moves. But Peter Siddle bowling a spell full of aggression and venom overshadowed Pattinson’s efforts during the closing stages of the day.
When Dravid was called back as he was bowled off a no-ball, one could feel the G crowd helping Siddle channel his frustration (“We love Siddle ‘coz he’s a Victorian” chants rang around the ground) and he kicked it into high gear from there on. The next delivery, bowled at 150k hitting Dravid in the stomach pretty much set Siddle up for the remaining overs testing the two set batsmen. Dravid and Tendulkar at that, no less. Siddle has now brought the match back in to balance under the long shadows from the setting Melbourne sun, for two days in a row – with the bat on Day 1 and with one reverse swinging delivery on Day 2. India needs a slight rebuilding job in the morning to exert total control on the match but Australia’s fast bowlers seem to be capable of preventing them. There is so much cricket yet to be played in this test and it promises to produce more instances that might overshadow the Day 2 happenings and I shall be watching it from where Mahesh seems to have experienced perfection.
Cricket, Lovely Cricket!