The Perth Comeback
That this Indian cricket team is no pushover away from home has been evident for quite a few tours, but their performance at Perth has been nothing short of outstanding. Anil Kumble set the tone in his pre-match comments about the hype surrounding the fast and bouncy pitch; “It's more mental than in the middle.” Kumble called Australia’s bluff, and by the second day not only had India’s three young fast bowlers out bowled Australia’s 4 pronged pace attack but Tendulkar and Dravid had put on a determined first day batting partnership that could yet define this Test match.
India’s fast bowling resources have improved tremendously and the bench strength has also picked up so much that even the second string of bowlers are truly competitive at the international level. Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel were all unavailable through injuries, but the young men waiting in line stepped up to the task admirably. RP Singh has led the pace attack with undeniable skill, energy and stamina in both Sydney and Perth, while Ishant Sharma in only his third Test turned the match on its head with an outstanding spell of seam bowling and snared the wickets of Ponting and Clarke with two outstanding deliveries that would have made Glenn McGrath proud. Earlier Irfan Pathan brought his effervescence back to the cricket ground with his now familiar gravity defying leap of joy after getting two wickets with the new ball. Pathan and RP Singh swung the ball beautifully throughout the innings and showed that the commentators who have been bemoaning the scarcity of swing bowlers in the world haven’t been watching this Indian attack. At 5-61, Australia were in unchartered waters, but Symonds and Gilchrist launched a belligerent counter attack scoring at nearly 7 an over while Kumble kept attacking fields. The partnership was becoming threatening before Kumble got the crucial breakthrough with the wicket of Symonds with a trademark “jumbo” ball that bounced and kissed the edge of the bat, popped up of Dhoni’s gloves into the safe hands of Rahul Dravid. RP Singh then got Gilchrist with a brute of a ball that reared up and the batsman could only fend it into Dhoni’s gloves. In the sapping 40 degree heat RP Singh continued to bowl in the low 140 kph and helped clean up the tail in quick time. Australia were bowled out in 50 overs, and India had 118 run lead; it was a brilliant bowling performance with every single bowler pulling his weight.
One could sense the pressure of the lead on Australia’s bowlers as they came back to bowl at the Indian batsmen on the same day. Worry was writ large on Ricky Ponting’s face as Sehwag rattled off boundaries, and he pushed a man to deep point and third man in a bid to contain the dangerous Veeru. If Australia don’t get Sehwag early tomorrow, they are well and truly out of this Test match, but even if they do get him early it will require a tremendous bowling performance to get rid of the confident Indian batting line up cheaply enough for the Australians to have an outside shot at winning this Test match.