Peter George had something of a tough day at the office yesterday.
Expectations were high for the young newcomer on his Test debut. His bowling for South Australia has been called “McGrath-like”, which is uncomfortably reminiscent of the fact Phil Hughes was compared to Bradman before Steve “straight to 2nd slip” Harmison rediscovered the killer inside himself and took Hughes apart with viciously directed straight lifters in last year’s tour match at New Road.
So the boy George would have been understandably nervy when thrown the ball for the first time during the evening session of Day 2. Faced with the task of bowling at India’s galacticos, his first over was all over the bloody place and Sehwag duly took a liking to him, pasting him for 2 successive boundaries.
George did manage the one maiden in that session, and as Sachin and India marched inexorably on the next day he seemed to settle down and find his line with more consistency. He also introduced us to the slo-mo bouncer, which we all had a good laugh at, but when we’d stopped pissing ourselves realised it proved quite effective in that when he bowled it no runs seemed to be forthcoming.
It did cross my mind during that nightmare first over that such is the irony, comedy, karma, providence of cricket, call it what you will – or maybe just the hand of a cricket god moved to mercy by a young man’s thankless exertions – that Tendulkar would probably be Peter George’s first Test wicket.
And so it proved to be. Whichever god it was who wrote the script did ensure that the maestro wracked up another couple of stratospheric achievements – 49th Test ton, another double hundred, and so it (and he) goes on – before a beautiful swinging delivery from the debutant found Sachin’s inside edge as he tried to cut and chopped the ball onto his stumps.
If there is anything guaranteed to give you a little confidence on your maiden appearance for your country, taking the wicket of the world’s greatest batsman must surely be it.
A couple of days ago this Test match was wandering along the flat road leading to the nowhere of a nailed-on draw. Tomorrow, Day 5 will dawn with the promise of a victory. For whom, it’s too tight to say. India hold a slight advantage but it all depends on whether they can take Australia’s 3 remaining wickets quickly. At the moment Australia’s lead is 185, and five of their 7 wickets have gone to the spinners. Can Hauritz replicate the success of Ojha and Harbhajan? Will Ricky Ponting trust him enough to let him try?
There will be heroics. There will be tension. Larynxes will be screamed raw as bowlers appeal for everything. Batsmen will go to the middle all guns blazing and get out playing stupid shots.
Or, the last three wickets of Australia’s innings will fall cheaply and India will do the cricketing equivalent of stealing confectionery from a small child in knocking off the runs required.
The not knowing is part of the excitement, and it is part of what makes matches like this great.
Welcome… to Test cricket.