“Thank you, Ahmedabad, 53,214 ICL Fans” This was the message on the electronic scoreboard. But sadly those were not the numbers in Nagpur that made up the spectator crowd on what was an exhilarating, nostalgic, bizarre and bemusing day all rolled into one.
The drama on the fourth day’s play of the fourth and final Test of the Border Gavaskar Trophy demanded a larger audience. Those that were present to see were witness to a strange turn of events that saw both teams falter alternatively and still leaving the game a little bit wide open, though the odds would back India to at least draw this Test if not go for a win.
Ponting in a ‘Pleading’ Moment With Billy Bowden
Ricky Ponting will be kicking himself at the end of this Test should India draw or worse still, Australia lose. The fact that Australia may have thrown away the initiative handed on a silver platter by the Indians became evident in the fact that Australia were chasing close to 300 runs in the final innings for an unlikely victory to square the series and retain the Border Gavaskar Trophy.
Dada’s Final Walk
Few had time to dwell on Ganguly’s final innings that resulted in a duck. Such was the unfortunate manner in which Ganguly tread back from his final international innings for India. His fans were seen consoling him with the adage that even the late great Sir Don Bradman could not escape a similar fate. But the fate of the two teams were far more baffling.
How one can explain Australia’s tactics in the final session is beyond comprehension. The team that went into tea buoyed by an equally perplexing suicidal run attempted by Sachin Tendulkar that resulted in his dismissal suddenly appeared more afraid of the wrath of the match referee than of losing this Test and therefore, the series. It was unlike Australia and it was no wonder it had the ex-Australians players furious over the hour and half’s play that marked perhaps Australia’s most defensive move yet – only this time it was to save one man, not the pride of the proud sporting nation.
Australia were repeatedly behind the fifteen overs per hour mark. Suddenly it dawned upon the Australians that this would not perhaps go down with the match referee and the ICC and could even land skipper Ricky Ponting with a one Test match suspension. In light of that fact, Australia, post tea, forgot to go for the kill and went about trying to save their skipper the ignominy.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni would not have complained. After all he was the skipper who was earlier sweating under the collar. Just when one could have confidently stated that Tamil Nadu batsman, Murali Vijay, had saved India the blushes after Gautam Gambhir’s one Test match suspension by putting up another important opening stand of 116 following the first innings partnership of ninety-eight with Virender Sehwag, the wickets began to tumble.
Sehwag’s belligerence demanded a century but he came very close to it. But Dhoni made another critical blunder and allowed the match to be played into the Australian hands. After the momentum generated by Sehwag, India looked in a position to bat themselves into a strong position by tea. Instead the out-of-form Rahul Dravid was sent in at number three when Dhoni could have elevated himself as in the previous match and continued the momentum. Instead Dravid was followed by Sourav Ganguly who was brilliantly caught and bowled by Jason Krezja who cannot seem to keep himself away from the action after missing out in the first three Tests.
Krezja breaks into a dance
Krezja and Shane Watson jointly wrecked India’s momentum and it was looking like India were handing the victory cup to the Australians. Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh benefited from the change in Australian tactics that saw Michael Clarke, who substituted for Ponting in between, and Ponting himself, employ part timers like Mike Hussey when Australian should have stuck with their premier strike bowlers to quickly pack up the Indian tail. Instead Brett Lee was cooling his heels on the boundary as India chalked up precious runs by the dozen. The fury was coming out from the ex-Australians but surprisingly bypassed the otherwise sharp thinking of the Australians on the field.
Which skipper will rue his decisions more will be seen only when day five draws its curtains on the Border Gavaskar Trophy. No signs of let yet, for both teams!