| Tongue twister: Sachin Tendulkar after his dismissal. (Reuters)
Mumbai, Nov. 4: Eighteen wickets on the second day of a Test. Off-spinners Harbhajan Singh and Nathan Hauritz sharing the new ball with specialists. Can't get more bizarre, can it'
That, of course, isn't all: Everybody expects the fourth and final game of this series to end well within the distance. The Indians, after all, have conceded a lead of 99 on a wicket slammed as 'treacherous' by former India captain Ajit Wadekar.
Never before have as many wickets fallen on a single day in 30 years of Test cricket at the Wankhede.
'In my view, this isn't a Test wicket. I feel sorry for the batsmen, specially from our side. In any case, they haven't been in form,' Wadekar told The Telegraph as he left early, tired of seeing wickets fall quicker than skittles.
There's merit in Wadekar's opinion, but some batsmen ' Australians included ' need to be crucified for allowing the bowlers such easy ascendancy.
Shane Warne isn't around but, with even debutant Hauritz made to look a Muralidharan in the first innings, the task for the Indians is more than cut out. The ball is turning menacingly, stopping and jumping.
The wicket, in fact, has something for the quicks too. Therefore, seeing off the Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath spells tomorrow will be as important.
Thankfully, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir survived the three overs till delayed stumps (five for no loss), but the potentially decisive battle is going to begin in a few hours.
'We would have been happy with another 50 runs (not just 104, India's lowest at the Wankhede) the first time. Still, we have an innings in hand and will approach the remainder of the match positively,' emphasised stand-in captain Rahul Dravid.
Dravid, who got it absolutely right in choosing to bat and picking three spinners, added: 'It's going to be interesting if we manage to set a target of about 150.'
The Indians, however, have been so low on confidence throughout this series ' except a few hours in Chennai ' that, realistically, there's little hope. Moreover, simply hanging around won't do. Rather, that will queer the pitch even more.
Day II began with India 22 for two. Even before lunch, though, the innings was over with Gillespie (saluted by Imran Khan as the No. 1 strike bowler) emerging most successful ' four for 29.
Hauritz, by the way, was one big surprise: Three for 16, including a wicket (Anil Kumble's) off his very third ball. Actually, he couldn't have hoped for a more comfortable initiation, introduced with India 67 for six.
Then, the batsmen and the wicket 'collaborated' to ensure a handsome debut.
Sachin Tendulkar, clearly struggling having come into a series without a single preparatory game, was the first to go while the other overnighter, Dravid, remained unbeaten on 31 (the innings' top score).
If the Indians lasted a mere 41.3 overs, the Australians didn't fare remarkably better ' despite dropped catches and tardy fielding. Largely scoring off boundaries (14) and sixes (six), they got out in 61.3 overs.
Perhaps, having already won back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy may have softened the otherwise ultimate pros.
Again, Kumble was the most successful (five for 90). He has now taken 26 wickets in this series and is fast moving towards Kapil Dev's 434. Sharing the limelight somewhat was Murali Kartik (four for 44).
'One dream was to play with Anil and Bhajji (Harbhajan). That's been realised. I'm going to be happier if we bat well in the second innings and. I can't say whether this has been an ideal Test wicket as the ideal bit is debatable. But, yes, the bowlers do have much going for them,' Kartik added.
Asked if the match could get over tomorrow itself, Kartik paused and replied smiling: 'Not if we bat well.' Self-belief, faith. So much is now on test.