India turn the tables
India's convincing win in the second Test proved that "old-fashioned" cricket still works. Before the series began Ricky Ponting had made a lot of hue and cry about how the Australians were going to play a new brand of cricket - i.e. aggressive and new-age - while the Indians are still stuck up on the old-fashioned way of playing.
Now, with the series standing at 1-0 to India at the halfway mark, Ricky might have to eat his words.
India didn't put a foot wrong in this Test match. As I'd mentioned earlier, winning the toss is crucial in this part of the world, and that was proved to be right yet again. Mahendra Dhoni won the toss and India piled on the runs.
It's a flat wicket, alright, but one still has to score off the bad balls and keep the good balls away. India started strongly with both Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir providing a good start (twice in the match) and then the middle order capitalized on that.
Sachin Tendulkar became the highest run-scorer in Test cricket and Sourav Ganguly crossed the 7000 runs mark, scoring a century along the way. India not only managed a huge first-innings total but also scored at a very brisk rate.
Dhoni's contribution, as shown by his man-of-the-match award, was invaluable. His two fifties put the game that much out of the Aussies' reach. His batting was backed up by his fantastic work in the field, not just as keeper, but also as an inspiring young captain. That's new-age cricket for you!
A few words on the track. This particular pitch is made of black soil and if one takes away the grass and moisture, it becomes a really good surface to bat on. The bounce is always on the lower side, and without any grass or moisture, the lateral movement is non-existent too. The ball just skids onto the bat to be hit through the line.
I never expected the Australian spinners to make an impression here but even the quicker bowlers let them down. What surprised me was their complete inability to get the ball to reverse swing in the air and that left them with very few options. At times (especially in the second innings) they looked like they were waiting for things to happen and the batsman to make a mistake.
When it was India's turn to bowl, they found a new hero in debutant Amit Mishra. He became only the sixth Indian to take a "five-for" on debut. The absence of Anil Kumble was a major cause of concern before the start of the game but Mishra slipped into the role seamlessly.
It just shows the depth of talent available in India. We have a quality fast bowling line-up and even the spin department looks very efficient. Add to that the formidable batting order and it just makes you wonder whether this was such an unexpected result after all!
The Australian batting failed twice on a beauty of a track and this was a combination of several things. Firstly, the pressure of 469 runs in the first innings is a lot, regardless of the quality of batting at one's disposal. Secondly, the Indian bowlers used the conditions better than their counterparts and kept a tight leash throughout. Last but not least, the shot selection of a few Australian batsmen left a lot to be desired.
The tables have now turned. If it was India who needed to do a lot of thinking after the first Test, it's now Australia's turn to come up with the answers because they seemed to have none to the questions thrown at them in this match.
Aakash Chopra opened the batting for India in 10 Tests, forming an all-Delhi combination with Virender Sehwag during India's tour of Australia in 2003-04. He also made his mark as an exceptional bat-pad fielder. He writes columns for the Hindustan Times and Cricinfo. He recently wrote Beyond the Blues, out in December, his season diary for Delhi's 2007-08 championship season.