There were only ever going to be two ways this Test would end.
Wickets would either fall today like corn before the scythe, or the Indian team would bowl out Australia’s tail early and then chase down the runs needed to win with relentless superiority.
Today at Bangalore it was the latter. Bowled out for 223, Australia presented India with a target of 207 to win and this they did, without undue incident, for the loss of only 3 wickets. Bit of a stark contrast to the oxygen-starved tension of Mohali, but I did say yesterday that the unknowables are what make Test cricket great.
In this case, one of those unknowables, or unknowns, more precisely, was Indian debutant Cheteshwar Pujara. The 22 year old came in at 3 after the loss of Sehwag and proceeded to bat with a combination of freedom and maturity that bodes well for the future when India find themselves in the same situation Australian cricket did three years ago when Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist retired.
He went for 72 and it was left to those two redoubtable old stagers, Tendulkar and Dravid, to bring it home. In this match Sachin has made history – again – and so it was fitting that he scored the winning runs, giving India victory at a ground they last won on in 1995, and solidifying India’s lead at the top of the Test rankings.
If your name was Nathan Hauritz, you probably found you were in a nightmare from which you couldn’t wake up. I will be surprised if the selectors keep him after this, and I too was one of many who held their head in their hands every time he came on and an Indian batsman’s eyes lit up.
It was like watching a game of buzkashi, where the batsmen were the horsemen and Hauritz was the headless goat corpse being torn apart between them in the battle for possession.
His figures were grim – 3-229 for christ’s sake, but in the cold light (or warm glow, depending on who you were supporting) of an Australian defeat, let’s look at things a tad more sensibly. Firstly, the conditions are always tough in India. Hell, even Warne’s record there is average: only 34 out of his total of 708 wickets were taken in Tests in that country, and the only time he took more than 4 wickets in an innings it cost him 125 runs.
Secondly, Ricky Ponting’s captaincy betrayed an utter lack of faith in Hauritz. Fielders were scattered in the deep, moved into positions only after that area had been targeted. It was passive and defensive captaincy with fields set for bad bowling: not the best way to give your bowler confidence.
One man especially riled by this cruelty to his spinning brethren was Shane Warne – currently between poker tournaments and no doubt on a plane somewhere – who let rip on Twitter with:
It’s tough to disagree with this sentiment. Ponting’s captaincy has received much scrutiny since the days when, due to having Warne and McGrath at his disposal, the team pretty much captained itself. At best, some of his decisions have looked random; at worst, downright fucking stupid.
One can argue till the cows come home about the merits of Nathan Hauritz as a Test spinner. His favourite line seems to be wide of off-stump while hoping the ball will turn; a lot of the time it doesn’t. He is ironically more effective when he bowls a tighter line; Ponting seems to want an Australian version of Harbhajan, but this may be a step too far.
Hauritz has, however, put in some decent Test performances when his side have needed them, and Steve Smith, the man many think he should make way for, is arguably more effective with the bat at the moment. Smith still averages about 50 as a bowler, and is very much a work in progress still. Replacing Hauritz with Smith in the Ashes may be too early. Plus, it is very unlikely Hauritz will be quite this shit on his home turf.
Nathan Hauritz must now try and pick himself up in the upcoming ODIs followed by a couple of Sheffield Shield matches for New South Wales, and put forward a convincing case for Ashes retention. No doubt everyone and his dog will have an opinion on whether he should be part of the Australian line-up at Brisbane.
The selectors certainly have a lot of thinking to do.