Before I make any comment on the recently concluded Test match, please allow me to express belated endorsements regarding India’s decision to drop the charges against Brad Hogg. It was a marvellous, unexpected gesture and a class above the actions and words of both teams during the previous week. One act of grace – giving up one’s right to get even – seems to have had a very healing effect. The Perth Test had as much pressure and as many bad decisions (more, in fact) than did Sydney but all was well. Especially for India!
Cricket scribes will have already noted the irony of India twice stopping Australia’s record-winning streak of 16. Both matches were quite extraordinary. In 2001 in India, it was extraordinary because Australia had the match done and dusted. In Perth it was extraordinary because no subcontinental team has ever won there. In fact, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka have lost all nine Tests contested at the WACA (http://stats.cricinfo.com/ausvind/engine/records/team/match_results.html?class=1;id=213;type=ground).
Every Australian expected the Perth Test to be a foregone conclusion. Australia would win the Perth Test, break the record and seal the series. I think that included the 11 Australians charged with executing the plan.
I’m not going to recap the entire Test. India outplayed Australia and deserved to win – no question. Pathan (where have you been?) was magnificent. All of the Indian bowlers bowled well and that was the difference. Australia has only two Test standard bowlers and this weakness could be exposed over the next few months. The spell of Ishant Sharma bowling to Ricky Ponting on the final day was a highlight. I was stunned by the movement off the pitch. So was Ponting. I thought Ponting was very, very lucky not to be lbw twice before his eventual demise. One of the pad-ups, where Hawkeye showed the ball hitting top of middle, should have been given out. You just can’t allow batsmen to do that. Even if your name is Billy ‘leg before what?’ Bowden. Ponting was paramount to Australia’s effort and his relatively cheap dismissal was key.
Ishant Sharma joined this tour of Australia not too much past his 18th birthday. He looks like he needs a good feed, a haircut and to have his trouser hems let down. He also has the biggest Adam’s apple ever seen in the cricket world. Ishant had played two Tests prior to this series with one encouraging haul of 5-118 versus Pakistan, in Bangalore.
Sharma was not selected for the 1st Test in Melbourne but was brought into the team for the ‘Monkeygate’ Test in Sydney. Sharma took no wickets in that match while conceding 146 runs but he did take part in one of the key moments of the match. One of the triggers of the acrimony in that match was Andrew Symonds being given not out, caught behind from … guess who? Ishant Sharma. Symonds clearly hit the ball and inflamed the situation by acknowledging overnight that he did hit the ball. This admission came when he was still not out, en route to 162 not out.
Sharma took just three wickets in this successful Perth Test but he dismissed Ponting twice in the match, caught by Dravid at first slip, on both occasions. These wickets were vital to the Indian victory and the working over that Ponting received from Sharma, especially on the final day, will long be remembered. With some help from the pitch and his height, Sharma extracted bounce and considerable movement off the seam. On the morning of the fourth day, Sharma bowled and bowled. Ponting never seemed comfortable and looked like being dismissed at any point. And just when it looked like Ricky had survived, and that RP Singh would replace Sharma, Ishant had just one more over and put an end to Ponting’s misery.
Is Instant Sharma going to get Ricky yet again? India won in Adelaide four years ago. Can they repeat the dose, square the series and forget the lamentations of Sydney? It is titillating indeed.