Friday, January 18, 2008

Lasting the distance

As I write this, India is slowly giving the WACA game back to Australia. Why am I not surprised? One thing India does not seem to be able to master is the fact that test cricket is a game played over five games and fifteen sessions. And you need to dominate more than half those sessions, especially towards the latter half of the game, if you are to make a serious fist at winning.

The Melbourne test was a harbinger of things to come. After a bad first session, India swung back and won the next two sessions, thus ending the first day with their nose ahead. That was as good as it got, as Australia swung back and won all the nine sessions that followed, to wrap up the game rather convincingly with a day and most of a session to spare.

At Sydney, India looked like they were getting better, dominating the first two sessions and having Australia in a spot of bother at 95 for 2, in more than a spot of bother half the way into tea at 134 for 6. However, the Aussies battled back to dominate the rest of the day, and the first session of the next day, recovering to a more-than-respectable 462. India did come back strongly over the next session, going into tea at 101 for 1. The next session also belonged to India, as they motored on to 215 for 3 at stumps, though they did lose two quick wickets towards the close to keep the Aussies interested. So on day 2, India had won about the half the exchanges.

Day 3 also belonged mostly to India, as they dominated all three sessions and closed in on 532, and a handy lead of 69. That was as good as it got. The next six sessions belonged to Australia, umps, chumps and all, as Michael Clarke’s scarcely believable 3-card trick towards the very end put paid to India’s hopes of escaping with a draw. In essence, India got the better of the exchanges in 7 out of the 15 sessions, just one less than Australia. But the difference was 122 runs, and it was a defeat grabbed from the jaws of a draw, even from a distant dream of victory.

Perth looks similar. India won sessions 1 and 2, wobbled in 3, galloped through all the three sessions of day 2 (barring the Symonds-Gilchrist counter attack either side of tea), had a bad first session today and what is turning out to be a slightly better second session. That means they have (more or less) dominated five of the eight sessions so far. Can they maintain this and have three more good sessions? History suggests otherwise.

Is it the excess of limited-overs cricket? Is it not having sufficient firepower to deliver twice in a row? Or is it just that Australia is too good a team to fail back-to-back? Think back to the Ashes last season, and the story was quite similar in some test matches. Yes, this Australian team just seems a touch invincible. And Ponting doesn’t even need his Sydney antics to get there. This Perth test can prove that Australia can win while still behaving themselves.


Uncle J rod said...

maybe they should take it one session at a time.

Geetha Krishnan said...

Precisely, uncle rod. And that is the thinking that has taken Australian so far and the others so far behind.