Australian sportsmen have done their country proud this season. Their rugby side won the World cup, the cricketers lifted the World cup '99 and John Newcombe and his men emerged victorious in this year's Davis cup and to top it the Australian test side is on a roll. It has been a memorable year for Australia and this has been possible by the inspiration they receive from their colleague's achievements in various sports events.
In the last hour yesterday, Ramesh and Dravid showed some semblance of a fight but today after Sachin's dismissal, the Indians caved in meekly. Ramesh had to retire hurt early, his finger injury not allowing him to bat and it seems that he is out of the 3rd test also. Dravid and Sachin battled for a while before Dravid was out in an unfortunate manner gloving a ball down the legside. Rahul was meddling the ball well and if India had to save the game, Rahul's dismissal was a telling blow.
Saurav once again got his eye in but could not carry on. He must be very distraught with himself because he is the kind of a player, who after a decent start, looks to get a big score, but so far on Aussie soil, he has failed to capitalize. Today it was Greg Blewett who forced an inside edge of a lazy push from Saurav.
Sachin carved a masterpiece once again today. His timing and his balance both on the front foot and the back foot was exquisite. In both the innings he batted with tempered aggression, never allowing any bowler to dominate. The best phase of Indian innings was when Kanitkar and Sachin took charge. Kanitkar displayed a cool head and batted with aggression. His knock of 45 was a brave effort. At that stage it looked as if Sachin and Kanitkar would see India through, but alas! It was not to be. A bad leave from Sachin, when he padded Shane Warne's delivery, was enough to start India's slide towards defeat.
Steve Waugh displayed excellent captaincy skills. He was thinking all the time and it was a shrewd move to bring in Blewett before lunch, which resulted in Saurav's wicket. Another tactical brilliance was to get Mark Waugh on for M S K Prasad who let his concentration waiver, which resulted in his downfall. Steve Waugh handled his bowlers superbly and he is a captain who leads from the front and also by example and gives the impression of a leader with trust. All his moves, whether they come off or not, are still appreciated and are never frowned upon.
Shane Warne was at his best, even though he will have only one wicket against his name. Sachin's wicket was the turning point of today's game. He varied his line very well from outside leg stump to leg stump and then on the middle and off. Couple of overs before he got Sachin's wicket he had switched his line from leg and middle to outside leg stump and had Sachin in a tangle on a couple of occasions. It was the variation in line that got him the wicket. Sachin misread the line completely and padded up to a delivery, which was pitched on the middle stump. One notices the perceptible change in Warne's bowling. His deliveries now have a lovely drift and combined with his turn and guile, he is back at his best.
Another youngster who will remember this match is Brett Lee. With a rich haul of wickets, he has had a dream start. He has a balanced run-up that is followed by an uncomplicated action. He also has a lovely lock-in position of his left hand when he delivers and well, he is pretty quick. He also showed the right kind of maturity and temperament required at the international level. He varies his pace very well and bowled a consistent line and proved quite a handful.
For India there were some positive signs. Ajit Agarkar is fast emerging as a formidable partner for Srinath. In this match, this wiry youngster generated pace and made the ball skid on to the bat, but more than this, it is his attitude that is refreshing. He is young and he is willing to take on the opposition.
Kanitkar showed a lot of character in his sojourn at the crease. He was not afraid to play his shots, and his innings should give some confidence to the team management.
India can gain some solace from the fact that Australia in their last tour of India were 2-0 down but they did manage to win the last test match. The SCG wicket offers India a very good chance of making a recovery as it favours spinners. India does not have too many options except bringing in Harbhajan Singh in place of a seamer. A talented bowler like Harbhajan may pose problems for Australia on a turning wicket.
India's worry still lies in the opening slot and the lower middle order. Gandhi seems to be the best bet to replace injured Ramesh and he does deserve a second chance. The lower middle order with Kanitkar and Anil Kumble, that shows some grit, promises a reasonable resistance. Dravid and Saurav have to put their failures in this test behind them and need to stamp their class at Sydney.
A win against the world champions will be a great start for the millennium