Michael Clarke and Matthew Wade during their partnership, in Hyderabad, on Saturday
Hyderabad: Figures do suggest that India hold the upper hand at the end of Day I of the second Test, here, at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.
However, the talk of the day would be none other than Michael Clarke. But not just because he once again stood tall amongst the ruins, it’s more due to his gamble to declare when Australia still had a wicket in hand having put just 237 runs on the board.
The decision may well have taken the majority by surprise, but then Clarke has a side to lead and he has every right to do what he thinks is right for his team. Chances of the Australian innings surviving was bleak with the last two batsmen — James Pattinson and Xavier Doherty — at the crease. With three overs remaining for the day, it was a brave an exciting idea to let the in-form Pattinson have a crack at the Indian openers, who aren’t amongst runs.
India, however, ensured that the Australian quicks didn’t do any damage on a tricky wicket and finished at five for no loss, with Virender Sehwag batting on four and Murali Vijay yet to open his account.
The morning session, on Sunday, will be a crucial one for India, as they certainly wouldn’t like to suffer like Australia did after opting to bat first.
Pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar rocked the top-order with three quick wickets, with the Aussie batters having no clue whatsoever against his seam movement. David Warner was bowled by a peach of a delivery with the game just into its third over. Kumar brought one back sharply into Warner before it took the inside edge of the bat and rattled the stumps.
In his very next over, Kumar got rid of Ed Cowan with a similar kind of delivery that trapped the Australian leg-before, though replays suggested the ball had pitched outside leg-stump.
Instead of getting bogged down by the early departure of the openers, Shane Watson and Phil Hughes kept the scoreboard ticking. Watson, in particular, showed positive intent, latching on to anything that was there in his zone.
But while trying to pull Kumar off a ball that kept low, Watson, too, perished. In came Clarke (91) and once again, the stage was set for him to play the rescuer.
Making matters increasingly difficult for him, Ravichandran Ashwin removed a struggling Hughes soon after. Ashwin’s initial figures (6-5-1-1) made one wonder whether the offie would have Chennai-like success in Hyderabad as well.
It was only when Clarke lofted him over mid-off for a six — about 30 minutes before lunch — that Australia finally started to get some sort of a move on. At the other end, Matthew Wade grew in confidence having survived the last half-an-hour of the first session.
Thereafter, it was simply superb exhibition of cricket from Clarke and Wade. The duo made sure to use their feet and focused on rotating the strike. They hit the odd boundary in between, not allowing the spinners to settle down.
At the same time, bringing Ashwin after as many as 16 overs post-lunch also worked to Australia’s advantage. Clarke and Wade had no problems as such facing Kumar and Harbhajan Singh during that period, with Ishant Sharma coming in as the first change.
Both Clarke and Wade had nicely settled down when Ashwin was finally brought on. With Clarke looking in ominous touch and Wade hardly showing any signs of a cheekbone fracture, the pressure was right back on India.
Australia had a fantastic session scoring 104 runs without losing a single wicket. The scenario, however, could have been a different one had Cheteshwar Pujara not dropped Clarke, who was then on 52, at short leg, off the bowling of Ashwin.
Harbhajan finally accounted for Wade, who had by then added 145 for the fifth wicket with his captain. The Aussie failed to keep the cut down and holed out to Kumar at the point region.
The Aussie stumper’s dismissal opened the floodgates as wickets then fell in a heap. Ravindra Jadeja (3/33) once again impressed, removing all-rounders Moises Henriques and Glenn Maxwell in quick succession before getting the all-important scalp of Clarke.
The occasion got the better of Clarke, who was left stranded, losing partners at the other end. Throughout his 268-minute stay at the crease, he played just one rash shot and that resulted in his dismissal.
Jadeja, without doubt, was over the moon having sent Clarke back. It all depends now on how the India batsmen respond. Given the nature of the track, it could be quite costly for the team that loses momentum.