"Pitch belies expectations", reads one of the headlines after the first day's play. Interesting phrasing, that, putting the onus on the pitch to have behaved in consonance with alarmist predictions, rather than on the pundits to have read the pitch right.
The unwelcome news if you are an India fan is that the pitch will "belie expectations" again today - if anything, a little more so. A day in the sun and the ritual morning massage with the roller will contribute to a wicket conducive to the best batting day of this series thus far.
In losing four top order wickets for not very much in conditions conducive to batting really big, Australia sold itself criminally short. On the plus side, though, their captain is still standing -- and he is the one batsman on both sides who has thus far shown the nous to cope with any sort of batting conditions. Partnering him is a 'lean and hungry' Glenn Maxwell -- a batsman whose desperate desire to get into the Test XI, and his high-decibel disappointment at missing his chance against South Africa last year, led him into conflict with the establishment, and triggered stinging rebukes from among others his current captain and coach. Maxwell has batted with the application of someone who wants this bad and, having gotten his hands on it, isn't about to let it slip away through thoughtless indulgence.
The two together, with Matt Wade to follow, portend a grind in the field for Indians. Throughout the first day, the various bowlers experimented with every variation they know -- speed, swing, length, line, turn, bounce -- they gave everything a shot, and there was nothing there for them. There will be even less this morning and yet, somehow, they need to find a way to winkle out the remaining Australian wickets inside 100, 150 runs tops to stay in this game.
On the plus side, Ravi Jadeja towards the evening session began finding good bounce and sharp turn from one end, where he got to bowl into the footmarks of the Indian quicks. Given the opportunity to have another go from there, his natural over the wicket line should prove a handful. And, another plus, the home team's inspirational captain, who abdicated the entire post-tea session on day one with a shoulder injury, has been pronounced fit and should be back on the field. That's it for silver linings, now for the action.
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