Clean sweep

The victorious Indian team.

The series provided the patrons marvellous entertainment and showed that there's nothing quite like Test cricket, writes S. Ram Mahesh.

For some reason — perhaps it's the acoustics of the Chinnaswamy Stadium — crowds in Bangalore sound incredibly loud whatever their size. For five days they came, in varying numbers, and on each, they threatened to unhinge the roof from the concrete superstructure. They were provincial and they lacked class. (Granted, there were discerning fans, but they were comfortably overwhelmed by the crass majority). They booed Australian batsmen, jeered Ricky Ponting as he made the desolate post-match speech of a vanquished captain, cheered every time an Indian fielder approached the stands. But for all their faults, they provided, how do you call it, atmosphere, a soundtrack to the spectacle, making more textured, the experience.

They also had a more practical purpose — they lifted the Indians whenever it was needed. “Frankly speaking, from the 45th or 50th over, when a fast bowler comes for his second or third spell, it's the crowd that gets him going, apart from the fact that he is supposed to do well for the team and the country,” said M. S. Dhoni, the Indian captain. “After all, if taken in the right sense, we are the performers in the circus, but you need the circus to be full to really perform. We appreciated it by going for a (victory) lap and appreciating the support they gave us.”

While the miraculous chase of Mohali was completed in front of near empty stands, India coasted to a seven-wicket win to wild whooping in Bangalore. The second Test arrived at this climax through a convoluted path full of collapses and rescue acts — much like the first, it lurched several times, pitching this way then that, before India made the fifth day its own. In a neat twist, Cheteshwar Pujara, who replaced V. V. S. Laxman in the XI after the batting artiste couldn't recover completely from back spasms that bothered him during his Houdini Act in the first Test, played the determining innings on the final day.

Pujara, only the fifth Indian to make a score of 50 or more in the fourth innings on debut, impressed Ponting with how he batted in the chase after India had lost Virender Sehwag. “I was hoping that we would get Sehwag early which we did,” said Ponting. “The Pujara-Vijay partnership did us in; they were scoring at a run-a-ball rate and got the momentum their way. Pujara showed great intent, he was willing to take a few risks to get the momentum their way and it paid off well for India.”

A run-machine at the first-class level, the 22-year-old Pujara proved he has the temperament and the talent for Test cricket; his evolution will be watched with great interest. As will that of M. Vijay. The Tamil Nadu opener, in the side in place of an injured Gautam Gambhir, finally made the most of a start in the first-innings, bringing up his maiden century (139) — a fine, vital knock made in difficult circumstances. His partner in the 308-run stand was Sachin Tendulkar, who scored his sixth double-century (214) and continued what has been an extraordinary year of run-making. Tendulkar batted through day three, offering not a chance; his batsmanship on the second evening after India, responding to Australia's 478, had been reduced to 38 for two, was of the highest order. Vijay and Tendulkar also played their parts in the second innings, both men partnering Pujara to further India's cause.

Well done...Sachin Tendulkar (right) greets M. Vijay after the opener had reached his maiden hundred. Sachin himself was in superb form as he notched up the sixth double hundred of his Test career.

For Australia, Marcus North made a career-saving century in the first-innings, and Shane Watson added to his hundred and his fifty in Mohali with scores of 57 and 32 to cap a fertile series with the bat. Ponting himself made 77 in the first innings.

But, much like the first Test in Mohali, the second was decided on the second innings. “We have lost both the Tests because of our second innings batting,” admitted Ponting, whose 72 in Australia's second stint kept the touring side from disaster. “If we had batted a little longer in the first Test, we would have won that, if we had batted longer here, we'd have had a draw.”

India also had the better of the bowling battle: Zaheer Khan was far and away the best bowler of the series, and although he wasn't consistently good with the new ball, he more than made up with the old ball, which he reversed adeptly. Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha outperformed Nathan Hauritz, who is a better bowler than his showing here. “I am fortunate to have a side that has performed very well in the past one and half years and I am very close to them,” said Dhoni. “They have done well in the difficult circumstances whether it's bowlers or batsmen.”

The 2-0 win was India's first clean-sweep in a series of two or more matches against Australia; it helped retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and consolidate India's No. 1 position in Test cricket. Most of all, the series provided the patrons marvellous entertainment and showed that there's nothing quite like Test cricket.


Second Test, Bangalore, October 9-13, 2010. India won by seven wickets.

Australia — 1st innings: S. Watson c Dhoni b Ojha 57; S. Katich c Dravid b Harbhajan 43; R. Ponting lbw b Raina 77; M. Clarke c Raina b Harbhajan 14; M. Hussey c Sehwag b Zaheer 34; M. North c Sreesanth b Harbhajan 128; T. Paine st. Dhoni b Ojha 59; M. Johnson lbw b Ojha 0; N. Hauritz (run out) 17; B. Hilfenhaus (not out) 16; P. George st. Dhoni b Harbhajan 2; Extras (b-9, lb-12, w-1, nb-9) 31. Total: 478.

Fall of wickets: 1-99, 2-113, 3-132, 4-198, 5-256, 6-405, 7-415, 8-458, 9-459.

India bowling: Zaheer 23-5-84-1; Sreesanth 21-1-79-0; Ojha 42-7-120-3; Harbhajan 43-3-148-4; Sehwag 4-1-7-0; Raina 8-1-19-1.

India — 1st innings: M. Vijay c Paine b Johnson 139; V. Sehwag c Johnson b Hilfenhaus 30; R. Dravid c North b Johnson 1; S. Tendulkar b George 214; C. Pujara lbw b Johnson 4; S. Raina c Hilfenhaus b Clarke 32; M. Dhoni c Clarke b Hauritz 30; Harbhajan Singh c Ponting b Watson 4; Zaheer Khan c Clarke b George 1; P. Ojha (not out) 0; S. Sreesanth lbw b Hauritz 0; Extras (b-6, lb-26, w-8) 40. Total: 495.

Fall of wickets: 1-37, 2-38, 3-346, 4-350, 5-411, 6-486, 7-491, 8-494, 9-495.

Australia bowling: Hilfenhaus 31-6-77-1; Johnson 28-2-105-3; George 21-3-48-2; Hauritz 39.5-4-153-2; Clarke 8-0-27-1; Watson 12-2-35-1; Katich 5-0-18-0.

Australia — 2nd innings: S. Watson lbw b Ojha 32; S. Katich c Dhoni b Harbhajan 24; R. Ponting lbw b Zaheer 72; M. Clarke st. Dhoni b Ojha 3; M. Hussey lbw b Ojha 20; M. North b Harbhajan Singh 3; T. Paine c Dhoni b Sreesanth 23; M. Johnson b Zaheer 11; N. Hauritz (not out) 21; B. Hilfenhaus b Sreesanth 0; P. George c Dhoni b Zaheer 0; Extras (b-1, lb-5, w-3, nb-5) 14. Total: 223.

Fall of wickets: 1-58, 2-58, 3-65, 4-126, 5-131, 6-181, 7-185, 8-217, 9-218.

India bowling: Zaheer 11.2-1-41-3; Sreesanth 14-2-48-2; Ojha 25-5-57-3; Harbhajan 21-2-63-2; Sehwag 4-0-8-0.

India — 2nd innings: M. Vijay lbw b Watson 37; V. Sehwag c Paine b Hilfenhaus 7; C. Pujara b Hauritz 72; S. Tendulkar (not out) 53; R. Dravid (not out) 21; Extras (b-8, lb-5, w-4) 17. Total (for three wkts.) 207.

Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-89, 3-146.

Australia bowling: Hilfenhaus 7-0-27-1; Johnson 14-4-42-0; N. Hauritz 12-0-76-1; George 7-0-29-0; Watson 5-0-20-1.