January 6, 2008

Pain in Sydney.

It happened again. Another Indian batting collapse. This time it was more drawn out and so more painful. Ganguly got out (6th wicket) in the 41st over and then the bowlers and Dhoni hung around for another 30 overs. They almost pulled it off. But in the end, probably fittingly, Australia extended their winning streak. The critical fact which settled this match is: Indian top order could last (or made to last, if you like) only 40 overs in the second innings.

It was the same lineup which lasted for 140 overs in the first innings and obtained a rare first innings lead against Australia. The last time it happened was in Adelaide, 2006 when England got a lead in the first innings only to collapse woefully on the last day to lose. Then it was Warne, Lee and McGrath. Now it is Symonds and Clarke.

Mukul Kesavan is right. Yuvraj doesn't belong here. It is not fair to blame alone him for this. But his four innings in this series don't really give me much hope. It is not just failures. Wasim Jaffer also failed, but I would say stick with him. He is opening the innings in difficult situations and he proved his mettle over the last one year. At the very least, Yuvraj does not deserve his place at the cost of pushing Dravid to open.

Australia richly deserve this. They are an amazing team. When they were in a bother in the first innings, Symonds played a gem with ample support from the bowlers. In the second innings, an injured Hayden and Hussey played incredible innings on a wearing pitch to give them a chance. The versatility is something. On a spinning track, Symonds and Clarke, both part-timers, managed six wickets between them. They chipped in when their specialist spinner couldn't strike.

True, some decisions went against us. Some of these might well have changed the course of the match. On the first day Symonds was clearly out at 30. On the last day, Dravid was clearly not out. But Indians will do well to accept that in spite of these, they should have saved the match.

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