As an Indian fan, the first thing to do after the opening day of the Brisbane Test is take a deep breath and savor the moment. After all, it is not often, more so in recent times, that India can claim to have dominated an entire day of an overseas Test match. The moment indeed triggers a high, and as is the case with substances which evoke a similar feeling, it carries a statutory warning: premature rejoicing can cause heart-ache, especially when the team under consideration is very capable of capitulation at short notice.
At the same time, credit has to be given where due. India have won Day 1, and not by a narrow margin. The batting side is comfortably perched at 311/4 and Australian bowlers have taken a beating, while facing up to the triple-threat posed by skillful batting, sweltering heat and multiple injury concerns.
For tomorrow, India’s first target should be 400, and once that is breached, more ambitious targets can be set, and perhaps surmounted. From Australia’s perspective, they need to keep telling themselves that a couple of wickets more, and the Indian tail would be just around the corner.
These are how the key individual performances stack up, using the Quadrant Scorecard, the methodology behind which you can read here.
Do note that the analysis focuses on batting and bowling performances, which is why Brad Haddin and Shaun Marsh are absent from the Scorecard, despite being involved in dismissals, and non-dismissals, respectively.
Murali Vijay exorcised the ghosts of his 99 at Adelaide with a magnificent 144 on a Gabba pitch which did not deliver the kind of sting it was promising in the run up to the match. A lackluster Johnson and the inexperience of Hazelwood and Starc aided him, as did Shaun Marsh, by dropping him on 36 and 102.
The runs still had to be made though. The morning session, treacherous in mind if not in reality, had to be seen off. The post-lunch session, the only one where the Aussie attack looked even mildly threatening, had to be carefully negotiated.
Only post-tea did Vijay open out, and the next 50 runs were sheer poetry in motion, racked up in just 36 deliveries. The nervous nineties were a forgotten folklore as a flurry of classy boundaries brought up the gritty right-hander’s century, the man himself coming to realize the achievement of the milestone only after his partner confirmed the same.
By the time Vijay fell for 144, equaling Ganguly’s historic century at the same venue a decade back, the Australian attack was physically and mentally drained. The Tamil Nadu opener would have featured even higher on the HP quadrant, but the two ‘lives’ he was granted pulled down his score on the Effort front.
Nevertheless, the record shattering century and the numerous partnerships built along the way have set India up nicely, and irrespective of where we go from here, Vijay should be thanked for building a wonderful foundation, which I hope the remaining batsmen do not mercilessly destroy.
Ajinkya Rahane was a sure-shot candidate for Lazy High-Flyer today due to the risky nonchalance he displayed at the beginning of his innings. Lady Luck more than made up for the howler umpire Erasmus bestowed on him in the second innings at Adelaide in the initial phases, before Rahane settled down to play an innings abounding in the silky elegance he is known for. Such was his control during the latter part of his innings that he managed to sneak into the HP zone – only just, though.
Josh Hazelwood, the best Australian bowler on display today, slips marginally into the HP zone. Although wicket-less in the first session, Hazelwood settled into an excellent rhythm, thereby reaping rewards during the second. Pujara’s wicket was secured via another howler, and Kohli too fell to a bout of indiscretion, but the debutant certainly got the ball in the right areas, prompting commentators to liken his ‘in the corridor’ bowling to the great McGrath’s. Hazelwood could not cope with the heat though, with speeds significantly dipping as the day progressed, and was in visible discomfort after bowling a couple of deliveries with the second new ball, post which he left the field for the day.
As expected, players are jostling for space in this Quadrant.
Shikhar Dhawan’s dry spell continued, but to his credit, the southpaw looked far more willing to slug it out today. The delivery which got him out had ‘hit-me’ written all over it. In hindsight, it could have been left to sail harmlessly through to Haddin, but in the split-second decision making time batsmen get, Dhawan went for it. On another day, the ball would have flown high above gully region to crash into the third-man boundary, but today, all Dhawan managed to do was to nick it. He will be under tremendous pressure to perform or perish in the second innings.
For me, the biggest disappointment today from India’s POV, was Virat Kohli. After looking in supreme touch, the, err, former skipper, threw away his wicket by attempting to cut a delivery which was too close to him. It may have worked at Adelaide, but the greater bounce at Brisbane meant that all he could do was plant a healthy edge on the cherry en route to Haddin.
The Aussie bowling today as a whole was toothless, and scarcely threatened to pick a wicket. In fact, all dismissals today, except that of Pujara, if it can be termed a dismissal, were batsman perpetrated, and the bowlers just needed to be in the right place at the right time.
Starc was the poorest of the lot, looking distinctly emaciated in the Brisbane cauldron, and was just going through the motions once the new ball had lost its shine. Watson and the younger Marsh never looked menacing, though they did beat the bat a couple of times, and Dhawan gave the latter a gift which might soothe some of the discomfort arising out of the injured hamstring.
Had he been anyone else, Johnson, especially after the dual drops of Vijay off his bowling, would have found himself in the Underachievers Quadrant. But having seen Johnson at the Ashes last year, against the Proteas this summer, and even during the disastrous series against Pakistan, I can conclude that currently he is just a pale shadow of his destructive self. Bowling well within himself, and dishing out more floaters than well-directed bouncers, Mitch needs to ‘bounce back’ and slay whatever inner demons are currently tormenting him, if Australia are to get back into this Test.
The Lazy Hi-Flyer Quadrant remains vacant, and that concludes the performances round-up after an exciting Day 1 in Brisbane.