An Intense Day
In a closely fought series, wherein they have proven Australia to be very vulnerable, India has found themselves at the wrong end of the score-line. They trailed by 2-0 going into the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and given their past record another series defeat loomed large.
But at the end of day one at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Test had already hung in the balance.
Three sessions of tantalizing cricket saw Australia finish the day at 259 for five and Steve Smith was unbeaten on 72 runs.
Chris Rogers and Shane Watson hit half-centuries, while Mohammad Shami overcame a poor start to the day and snapped up two wickets.
"I think three scores in the fifties is good in some respect but it is also very disappointing that the amount of handwork you put and then put yourself in that position. You can get a big score. So if you get out like that it’s pretty disappointing.
"I had felt good today and my feet were going well. I had a real desire to get a big score,” Chris Rogers said on Friday.
Rogers had been under pressure after a poor run of form, but came up good with fifties in both innings in the second Test at Brisbane. And he started well here in Melbourne as well, continuing from where he left off.
“That’s the nature of the beast. It is a tough business. You know that you are going to come under criticism if you are not scoring runs.
"I am not stupid enough to think that I own a place in the side as it’s a privilege. I am just trying to make the most of it,” said the opening batsman.
Rogers shared a 115-run stand with Shane Watson, who also belied a poor run of form to score 52 runs. It was the best stand for Australia on the day and gave the latter batsmen a platform.
“We enjoyed out there being together, had a bit of a laugh and maybe the different styles of batting helped us,” said Rogers about his partnership with Watson.
“He goes about hitting pretty hard and I let them come at me. May be we feed off each other so we have done well together, spending some time out there.
"A few mis-fields helped us. That dropped catch before lunch was crucial and it was nice to get a hundred-run partnership,” Rogers added.
Mohammad Shami had a poor start to the day but recovered well enough to pick two for 55 and countered Steve Smith’s half-century to help India restrict Australia.
Ravichandran Ashwin took one for 60 and Umesh Yadav took two for 69 to support Shami. Ishant Sharma went wicket-less with figures of none for 54.
“My effort was to focus on line and length in the morning,” said Shami.
“If a bowler can achieve that then there is nothing difficult for him. I didn’t focus on pace because the conditions weren’t right and I only do that when I get help from the pitch.
"Otherwise, I focus on line and length. The reverse swing with the Kookaburra ball isn’t much, it’s quite less than what we get from the SG ball at home. So I concentrated on bowling in the right areas," Shami added.
"It is great if one end is held tight, then you can attack from the other end. Ashwin did that very well today and I was able to attack from the other end. We have to bowl as a unit," said Shami.
Ishant was unlucky, but he bowled really well. He has taken wickets earlier in the series so it’s not like he isn’t in form or is bowled badly. He is bowling well and we have to support each other as an attack,” Shami voiced his support for India's under-performing pace spearhead.
Towards the end of the day, Shami went off the field for a bit. But returned to bowl the last over and denied any fitness concerns.
“There is no question of my fitness. Niggles keep happening on the field all the time. There is no problem as such. I just strained my left thigh and went out to avoid any injury. I stretched and came back to bowl the last over. I am fine now and will be bowling tomorrow,” he said.
“We will come out tomorrow to bowl Australia out early. If we can finish their innings in the morning session, then that will be good for us,” he signed off.
© Cricket World 2014