Writing this, I was a bit tempted to reuse one of my posts from the Melbourne Test match. Once again India’s batsmen self-destructed on a pitch that was only a little bit helpful to the bowlers. None of the top order got a really unplayable ball, though Gambhir and Kohli did at least get testing ones. Even then, however, they were guilty of playing too far forward at balls that would have carried over the stumps. Dravid is now starting to look seriously weak against balls pitched up at middle stump, he was bowled twice in the last Test and today he could only get the inside edge of his bat onto one and was caught bat-pad. All the rest of the top order batsman played without footwork at balls wide of off stump and got themselves out. They ought to have learnt better in England, but having failed to do so it is not surprising (although still disappointing) that they did not learn anything at the MCG either. These are supposed to be some of the best batsmen in the world, but a county batsman would have been embarrassed by this effort. Dhoni finished 57 not out, seemingly in an effort to show the rest of them how to play and single-handedly validate the decision to bat first. I had said before the match that I thought it was a bowl first pitch, and I think I was right about that, but once again India are under pressure and have only themselves to blame.
For their part Australia did well enough, but no more. In the first half of the day especially, their line was a bit loose and Ponting dropped an absolute sitter from Sehwag. Whilst their quicks have been very good this winter, they’ll be flattered by their figures today; I expect they’d have conceded at least 350 against a good batting lineup. Their top order also failed; Warner, Cowan and Marsh made just 24 runs between them. There was at least an element of good bowling to those dismissals, however, as Zaheer Khan made the ball move both ways. Marsh should not have played at the ball he did (and looked a bit out of his depth in the one ball he faced) but appeared to be trying to cover his stumps for the inswinger, which is not ridiculous. Unfortunately for him he read the delivery wrong and edged an outswinger to slip. Ponting and Clarke then put on a good partnership, although Clarke tried really hard to get out to a Sehwag-esque shot whilst still in single figures. It will be especially frustrating for India, as they dragged themselves back into the match with the three early wickets before Ponting and Clarke got into stride and took it away again. They can’t really rue any poor fortune though. Their bowlers display the same lack of application and general unwillingness to play a full Test innings as their batsmen. Dravid and Dhoni frequently look like the only players who actually want to win the Test match. For India to succeed they must either convince Sehwag, Laxman et al to play to their fullest extent or drop them. It’s a decision they ought to make as soon as this series ends.
Australia finished on 116-3, trailing by 75 runs and are well on top. If they can push on even just to 300 tomorrow India will probably be out of both the match and the series.