17.1 Harbhajan Singh to Ponting, OUT, Harbhajan has taken out Ponting. Wicket no 300 for Bhaji. It landed outside off stump on a length. Ponting shaped to cut it but was stunned as the ball turned in, cramped him and hit the top of the off stump. This is the tenth time he has dismissed Ricky. This is the first time he has bowled Ponting and It was Harbhajan 200th wicket in India.
The dismissal of Matthew Hayden for 16 took a tinge of the gloss off Jason Krezja’s ‘crazy’ debut, and left India in control by tea on day two. Krezja capped a bittersweet first Test outing with 8 for 215 – the eighth-best figures but also the most runs conceded in an innings on debut – to help Australia dismiss India for 441. Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni had batted wonderfully together in the morning, adding 119 for the sixth wicket, but fell in Krezja’s second over after lunch on day two, sparking a dramatic collapse, the last five wickets falling for 19 runs. Krejza came into this match with a few eyebrows raised over his capabilities, and in one innings, leapfrogged Brett Lee to become Australia’s second-highest wicket-taker this series. India, however, took out Hayden cheaply to leave Australia trailing by 398 runs.
Thanks to Ganguly and Dhoni, India had cruised through the first session. In the first over after lunch, consecutive boundaries off Mitchell Johnson, one driven with control, one slashed wide of slip, brought Dhoni his fifty from 88 balls. Krejza conceded his 200th run when Ganguly tucked a single off his pads, but picked up his fourth wicket two deliveries later when Dhoni got too far across his stumps and missed a paddle. If Krejza’s reaction was energetic, the roar that emanated across the caverns of a near-empty VCA Stadium two deliveries late was palpable. Ganguly pushed at one turning away and edged to a tumbling Michael Clarke at slip, thus becoming Krezja’s fifth wicket.
Zaheer Khan became the sixth, dragging a boom drive back onto his stumps, and Krejza found himself on a hat-trick when he snuck one past Amit Mishra’s defence. When Simon Katich snapped up a smart catch at forward short leg to get Ishant Sharma, Krezja had taken five in 26 deliveries, and returned the fourth-best effort from an Australian bowler on debut.
After being mauled for 32 in his first three overs yesterday, Krejza understandably took time to settle into his stride. Without ever looking dangerous, he plugged away and achieved some genuine spite from the flat track. Though he bled runs, Krejza’s was a very satisfactory display and he could also feel thrilled with an effort that included the wickets of Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Dhoni and Ganguly, with 31,038 Test runs between them.
The innings of the morning belonged to Ganguly, all off-side grace and on-side elegance in his last Test. Ganguly played himself in, defending well and only collected his first four when Lee gave him plenty of room outside off. His shots didn’t lack timing, evident by a beautiful drive off the front foot and a flick off the pads, both against pace, but the bulk of his scoring came through good running. The fluid drives and whips off the pads came after he crossed his 35th fifty with a couple driven past extra cover, and it was a fine effort from a man in his final Test.
There were further flashes of vintage Ganguly, most notably in a trademark skip out to launch Krezja for six, his 57th in Tests. Ganguly looked most comfortable against the rookie offspinner until he was dismissed for 85.
Dhoni’s was a controlled innings, with several neat punches on the off side and some wristy steers to leg, but the highlight was how he pushed Ganguly to hustle. Always shuffling on the crease, Dhoni worked singles into the spaces easily and constantly applied pressure on tired Australian feet. There were six triples and 11 doubles in the Ganguly-Dhoni partnership, most urged by Dhoni and reciprocated rather well by Ganguly, apart from plenty of easy singles.
Then Krejza took over after lunch. Though he became the third Australian after team-mate Lee and Chuck Fleetwood-Smith to concede 200 in an innings, Krejza’s maiden outing at Test level had significantly better returns than a plump beach blonde’s against India in 1992.
Hayden dazzled with a gorgeous on-drive, but a superb bit of fielding from M Vijay, collecting the ball at mid-on and nailing a direct hit, cut him short on 16. Dhoni had begun with Zaheer and Harbhajan Singh, only to swap Ishant for an over, and called back his offspinner as soon as Ricky Ponting came in. The ball has just about begun to spit, so Harbhajan – on 299 wickets – would hope to emulate a bit of Krejza’s craziness.