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Bowling attack made all the difference -Amit Masram Column
by Amit Masram
Nov 11, 2008
The farewell present could not have been sweeter for Ganguly , with Dhoni’s men claiming the Border Gavaskar trophy with a resounding win in Nagpur and wrapping up the series 2-0.Ponting yet again called it wrong , to give India an advantage to bat first .Murali Vijay did not looked overawed by the occasion made a concrete 33 and gave much of the strike to Sehwag who went berserk and gave a solid platform .The good thing about the test match was all three results likely till the start of day five and the track was still a good to bat on , barring the odd rough area created by the bowlers footmarks .Tendulkar first forged partnership with Laxman and then with Ganguly to get India out of the woods, after being reduced to 116/3.Ponting had India in a spot of bother but did not have the resources to finish the job as India went on to make 441 , with Tendulkar crafting his 40th test ton and Ganguly missing the hundred in his farewell test by 15 runs .

The biggest difference between the two sides has been the bowling attack. While Ishant and Zaheer made inroads into the Australian top order, Brett Lee was off colour and Johnson bowled well in patches .In the spin department, Krezja astonished with his 12 wickets debut and raised questions as to why was he not picked in the first place, for the previous games. It was also heartening to see the line of attack and bounce extracted from the strip by the debutant spinner.Ponting did not have enough faith in the White who was picked as a first choice spinner and Michael Clarke was given the ball ahead of him in most part of the series ,meant that subcontinent conditions were not exploited .Zaheer and Ishant planted enough doubts with the reverse swing in the batsman’s mind , Lee and company just looked clueless with no swing on offer for them while the Indian spinners kept the pressure on all the times.

Ponting would not like to remember this series as he had more than one occasions to get back into the game, through out the series, albeit the Mohali Test .With India sitting on a lead of 266 runs and four wickets in hand, Ponting had a great chance to skittle and square the series with a win But to everybody’s dismay he was concerned to improve on the bowling rate and in the process India held on the grip on the trophy which looked slipping. Not to mention that earlier in the Bangalore test, India were let off the hook with the Harbhajan- Zaheer association of 80 runs for the eighth wicket and the momentum quietly shifted towards the Indians after India was precariously placed at 155for 5, with the danger of follow-on looming large. Here though once Ponting and Hayden were dismissed it just became more and more difficult as the Australians went for the target .Harbhajan picked up four and Mishra had three Aussie wickets in the kitty.

The Prince of Kolkata was dismissed first ball in his final innings, becoming only the second cricketer after England’s Billy Griffith to score a century in his first test innings and a duck in his last. He has gone on a high scoring 324 runs at 54 and more significantly stitched vital partnerships when the team needed the most.Ponting will only loose his sleep if he mulls over the squandered opportunities. India will have loads of positives to take while the Aussies will learn from the trip, especially their bowlers, as the only solace was Krezja induction to the test level and Hussey’s consistency. The emergence of Mishra after Kumble’s exit and captaincy of Dhoni will be keenly watched from her on.Dhoni looked a man who anticipated the situations well, was inventive with his field placing and strategies more often than not. His tactics to bowl wide outside off stump on day three, when Aussies had the momentum with them, showed results.

All the tests have been taken to final day and except the Mohali test which was a one way traffic. It was a good contest between the ball and the bat, which augurs well for test cricket, even if the crowds continue to desert.
 
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