The First Test between Australia and India was a fitting tribute to Phil Hughes, the 26 year-old cricketer who died recently after being struck by a ball in recent state match.
This game was in many ways a tribute to him and, as such, the script couldn’t have been written better to provide a lasting memorial.
Australia won but only after five days of tightly-bound tussling that can only be found in Test cricket.
To start with the match was rescheduled due to Hughes’ death and Test cricket finally got underway on Tuesday last week, at the Adelaide Oval, as opposed to the initially scheduled starter, at the ‘Gabba in Brisbane.
There was so much in this match that once again “where do I start?” was the question that rose to my mind as I looked down at the keyboard. Well the only answer to that is “the beginning” , and so herewith the tale of the unofficially named 'The Phil Hughes Memorial Test Match'.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat. The openers, David Warner and Chris Rogers strode to the wicket, with Phil Hughes’ Test match number, 408, on their left front of their shirts, indeed all the Australian players wore 408 for this match. Warner and Rogers strode past the large ‘408’ emblazoned on the ground, took guard, and finally things were underway.
I was at work, and followed things with the Cricinfo window reporting the live score minimised at the bottom of my screen. I looked early and the score read 0-3 or thereabouts, then got on with some other writing. Next time I looked down, seemingly only a few seconds later, the score read 0-37. “WTF?” I said to myself, I checked, and David Warner was already 30 odd.
Warner is a famously attacking batsman, and no error, he was going at it here.
“This”, I said to myself, “is going to be good.” So I left my desk and went home to watch, and it was well worth it. Warner turned his early speed scoring into a century, and set the tone for the match.
Warner went on to post 145 from 163 deliveries, a cracking pace in the long from of the game. He was joined in the ‘ton up’ club by captain Michael Clarke with 128, and Steve Smith, who is really coming of age, with 162 not out. Australia declared its first innings closed on 517 with seven wickets down.
So India took their turn at the wicket, their top order performed solidly, with captain Virat Kohli top scoring with 115. There was in incident at the start of Kohli’s innings, in which he misjudged a short ball from Australia’s fastest bowler, Mitchell Johnson and took a hit in the helmet.
This was horribly reminiscent of the ball that had felled Hughes and the Australian players rushed to Kohli with concern. Thankfully the Indian captain was unhurt, and continued batting with aplomb.
India were eventually dismissed for 444, 73 runs behind, however in Test matches this meant basically scores were level and it continued ‘game on’. Nathan Lyon, the Australian off spinner, was the man with the figures with 5-134. This was crucially important, as Australia has been looking to Lyon to become the man to dismiss the opposition on the crumbling wickets of the last day of Test matches and here the signs for Lyon were good.
Australia went out for their second innings and posted 5 (dec) for 290 at the close of the fourth day. Warner again top scored with 102 and became the latest Australian batsman to score two centuries in the same match. Next best was Steve Smith with 52 n.o. and so was not dismissed in the whole game.
So the final day in Adelaide dawned, with it all to play for. India needed 363 runs to win, while the Australians were searching for ten wickets.
For various reasons to do my other work, I was able to watch all day, and I was rewarded with a day to remember.
India opened up, with Dhawan and Vijay, and looked solid enough until Dhawan copped a shortish ball on the shoulder. It spiralled behind him and Australian wicketkeeper, Brad Haddin took the ‘catch’. However the replay showed that the ball hadn’t hit Dhawan’s bat and so the umpire had got it wrong. I mention that because normally in high level cricket they use a Decision Review System (DRS), using all the sound and vision technology available, but India have declared that they won’t play under DRS. This was somewhat controversial, as Australia likes to use it. Anyway, the upshot was that India lost a batsman that may have been overturned on DRS.
However it wasn’t a major problem in context, as the Indians then did what they do best, bat against spin on crumbling fifth day wickets. Remaining opener Vijay, then combined with his captain, Kohli, to put on a stand of 185. For me sitting in my lounge room on the edge of my seat, the pressure was telling. From being confident with the Indians two down, I began to swing the other way, worrying the Indians were gonna do it.
But then Vijay was dismissed, LBW by Lyon, for 99, and I began to dream again. Lyon was starting to get the ball to ‘explode’ from the crumbling deck, and even the Indians were struggling to keep him out.
Following Vijay’s dismissal, Rahane came in and quickly left, caught off Lyon, the replay again showing that he wasn’t out, and the DRS could have saved this Indian batsman. Then Rohit Sharma came and went for 6 and the tide was swinging Australia’s way once again.
Then the diminutive Indian wicket keeper Wriddhiman Saha came to the wicket with a fixed agenda, ‘attack Lyon’. This he did with a six and a four in the early part of a Lyon over, then had what can only be called a brain explosion. He went for the top tier of the stands again, and was bowled for 13. He missed that ball by about a metre and, as the last of the recognised batsman, his dismissal was crucial to the cause.
The lunacy of this dismissal was fully evidenced by the look on his captain’s face as he watched this implosion from the non-striker’s end. Kohli said not a word and, while Saha walked off, Kohli looked in utter downcast fashion in the other direction, seeking solace in the view elsewhere.
With the captain’s exit, I finally exhaled and Australia quickly mopped up the tail, with the Indians dismissed for 315, 48 runs short. Lyon had done the necessary, returning second innings’ figures of 7-152, in all taking 12 wickets in the match.
Six long hours of emotion after I turned on my TV on this Saturday, the match was over. My supplies of Chamomile tea were severely depleted as I’d drunk most of it trying to stay calm.
It was a fitting tribute to Phil Hughes, and a real contest, over five days with first one, then the other, team in the ascendency.
Australian captain Michael Clarke re-injured his hamstring in the match, fielding on the last day, and may have come to the end of his career. This is a truly sad moment if so, but he can take solace in he played the match that was true and fitting tribute to his friend Phil Hughes.
In late news selectors have appointed batting all-rounder Steve Smith, to become Australian captain to take over from Michael Clarke as he recovers. This is a slight surprise given Smith is the youngest player in the team and has only very recently cemented his place in the team. The job was expected to go to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who now remains as vice-captain.
Steve Smith named Australian captain. http://t.co/iRPCXgVrRd— Dave Donovan (@davrosz) December 15, 2014
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