19th over: Australia 75-0 (Harris 33, Warner 37) Unplayable from Thakur, who hits some irregular spot on the pitch and makes the ball do voodoo. It’s a straight ball at the pads, maybe a touch of inswing, so Warner is looking to play to midwicket with a closing bat face. But after pitching the ball lurches towards the off, and bounces big, flying past the bat handle more than the outside edge, and clearing middle and off stump. Such is Warner’s singlemindedness at the crease though that he just taps the next ball to cover and takes a run. Harris adds two more.
18th over: Australia 72-0 (Harris 31, Warner 36) A couple of runs to Warner, who reaches outside his off stump and flicks Sundar across the line to deep midwicket, a real IPL stroke. Then plays a similar shot with more force behind it, and the hobbled Navdeep Saini has to chase it back to the rope for three more runs. Then it’s Harris’ turn, reaching wide and getting a slightly edgy late cut away fine for four. Forget that part about keeping the runs down. Seven from the over, the lead is 105.
17th over: Australia 65-0 (Harris 27, Warner 33) Shardul and Washington, the duo from yesterday with their 123-run partnership, are keeping the runs down with the ball. Another maiden from Thakur, tight on the off stump to Harris who attempts one back-cut but can’t beat gully. Then beats a push on the outside edge.
16th over: Australia 65-0 (Harris 27, Warner 33) Big applause for Washington Sundar as the off-spinner comes on to bowl his first over of the day, second of the innings. A new fan favourite after his wonderful batting yesterday on debut, not to mention three wickets in the first innings, starting with one S. Smith. Unfazed, Warner takes a single first ball, and while Harris is beaten on the outside edge, he also manages to find a run to cover in that over.
15th over: Australia 63-0 (Harris 26, Warner 32) Siraj continues, and you can detect Warner’s discomfort with a drop-and-run single to midwicket. His usual sprint is not possible. Siraj ties down Harris for the remaining five balls, tight on the off stump. Australia’s lead is 96.
14th over: Australia 62-0 (Harris 26, Warner 31) The errant Natarajan gets banished for the time being, and the swing merchant Shardul Thakur replaces him. How will this man batted yesterday. He starts off by bowling at the stumps, which is an improvement, with nary an extra to be seen, shots played to most balls, and only a single taken.
David Reynolds emails in, starting with a quote. “‘Never have I seen the equanimity of Statham’s temperament or technique rendered out of harmony for a minute,’ Neville Cardus wrote of Brian Statham, a legendary fast bowler who was also a (county) captain. Since I think we might with justification make the same claim about Cummins, I will rest your case. The Aussies need look no further than Pat. Might he also win this match? I am not ushering Paine out the door, though – if India are set the task of batting out a day to save the match again, I will be eager to see if the skipper has learnt anything from his recent Day 5 travails. But there I go rushing ahead again – Day 4 will provide its own drama first.”
The glory of Test cricket: each day its own chapter in the tale.
13th over: Australia 61-0 (Harris 26, Warner 30) They keep feeding Harris on the cut shot, and he keeps biting the hand that fed. Siraj this time. Two slips and a gully and how Harris gets a deep point in position. The thing India really can’t afford is fast runs in a partnership. Wickets? Ideal. Big slow runs? Acceptable. But if an established pair starts to motor… Harris keeps the foot down, driving a full ball wide of mid off. India’s bowling this morning has been ordinary.
12th over: Australia 53-0 (Harris 18, Warner 30) Natarajan had a bad habit in the first innings of overstepping the front line with the first ball of an over. He does it again here, and sprays it, and Harris helps it to fine leg for four. The next ball is even further down leg and this time Harris can’t get a touch on it but neither can Pant. Four byes. Finally the bowler gets to the other side of the stumps, but it’s too wide and it’s short and Harris can lay into a cut shot for four more! The fifty partnership comes up in no time, and another single means 14 from the over.
11th over: Australia 39-0 (Harris 9, Warner 30) It looks like Warner is moving well now to Siraj. On his toes and playing the ball down into the gully, which is one of the variations of Warner’s pet shot. No run that time but he was confidently into position. Siraj completes a maiden.
Matt Harris emails in. “What’s your sense of what winning/retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy means to the teams, compared with winning the series? For example, I’m sure Australia or England would be happy to play for a draw to retain the Ashes at the expense of a possible series win. A drawn series in which one retains the Ashes is a success. But I assume the relative importance of holding the trophy vs winning the series is variable depending on the esteem in which the trophy is held. Would the teams be thinking about custody of the B-G trophy, or just the outcome of the series?”
I don’t think that the trophy itself is that big a deal – as in, you wouldn’t see any front-page shots of David Warner in bed waking up with the Border-Gavaskar on his pillow. But the trophy symbolising the fact that the winning team from last time remains unbeaten is significant. And for India, the chance of retaining it in Australia after winning it in Australia last time is significant. So in the event of a drawn series, I think India would be jubilant and Australia deflated.
10th over: Australia 39-0 (Harris 9, Warner 30) Natarajan hasn’t got the line right to Harris, bowling too wide both sides of the wicket and letting the batsman leave most of the over. Adding a number to the ‘maidens’ column doesn’t always mean well bowled.
9th over: Australia 39-0 (Harris 9, Warner 30) Siraj bowling and this time Warner edges over slip for four. Living on their luck, this pair. He has that right-arm angle across him again, some away movement again from back of a length, and Warner just back-foot spars away from his body, and the slightly angled bat gives it just enough elevation to clear Rohit’s desperate fingers as second slip leaps up at it. Warner follows up by squashing a short ball to square leg for a couple more.
8th over: Australia 33-0 (Harris 9, Warner 24) Natarajan the left-armer from the Vulture Street end, over the wicket to the left-handed pair. Mirror-image cricket. Bowls to Harris who edges through slip for four. A tiny bit of away movement for Natarajan but Harris is playing early across the line, closing the face of the bat to midwicket and gets a leading edge more than an outside edge. It bounces just in front of Rohit diving across first slip, which unsights Pujara and the ball gets through both of them. The next boundary is out of the middle, an off-drive by Harris. He’s ruined the scoring ratios now.
7th over: Australia 25-0 (Harris 1, Warner 24) Mohammed Siraj has the ball at the Stanley Street end. Pace and some swing and seam first up, swinging across the left-handed Warner and then decking away towards the slips. Defended off the back foot by Warner second ball. The third though is floated up too full, and Warner waits on it before a no-fuss straight drive inside mid off for four. He’s in Bannerman-plus territory in these early stages, 24 runs out of 25. (I even did the maths in my head and that’s 96 percent. Very proud.)
There was a light sprinkling of rain as I walked to the Gabba this morning. We may have interruptions through the day, though usually this ground is the fastest to drain in the world. The newly laid sod after the intensive AFL season did give us some problems on the second day, however.
And for some more detail on that extremely fun day, in video / audio form, here’s me and Adam along with a tour of some Gabba artwork by the graf star Sofles.
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Day four, baby. We are about to get into it. The first innings for each team is done, the difference was remarkably reduced to 33 runs despite India being six down when they were still 183 behind. Then David Warner came out and crashed a few boundaries before stumps to get the gap past 50. Now we have two days left, and some forecast rain around. Three options: the Australians bat as much time as they can to build a huge lead and ensure they can’t lose the game. The Australians bash some faster runs to pile up a mid-range lead lead and declare with three to four sessions left to bowl, while trying to win. Or the Indians bowl them out and a have a small target to chase.
The ramifications: a draw means a series 1-1 and that India get to keep the trophy. But a loss means that Australia will fall out of the top two spots in the World Test Championship and miss out on the final, if perchance their South Africa tour either gets cancelled or goes badly for Australia. For India, a draw here would greatly increase their chances of making that same final. A win would be even better.
So it’s not as straightforward as some series that have come down to a decider. Lots on the line. Let’s dance.