Oh. My. God. I know I’ll regret this post when I read it later in more sober times, but OMG. If you’re not watching India play Australia right this second, you’re missing out a prime example of Test cricket’s drama and verve.
First, the Australians come out “all guns blazing,” as Ravi Shastri would say. Even in the best of times, Matthew Hayden seems angry and too confident for me, but he seemed downright furious at the Indians, and not because of any apparent verbal spat. It’s almost as if the Australians — used to winning over and over again — could not fathom that an opponent would have them wait to get their chance to bat. Each successive hit to the boundary looked like Hayden meting out extra punishment to some errant schoolboys who hadn’t learned their place on the playground.
But, as I said in the lower post, this Australia is not the one it used to be. Sheer confidence might just not be enough any more. To sweep Harbhajan after facing only 2 balls? For Katich to stand back and swipe, with just 10 minutes to go to tea? And what on earth was Hussey thinking, pulling on a pitch like this?
The most salient moment for me, though, came when Sharma bowled Ponting. It wasn’t the delivery itself — though that was something special — but it was the look of recognition on Ponting’s face. He just stood there, raised his bat in humble defeat, and then looked back to see the off-stump lying flat on the ground. I can’t tell you how good this feels: it’s like a new order arranging itself in the cricket world; a power that realizes that it may just have met its match. Ponting watched the ball all the way through; unlike the others, he was as careful as careful is — and yet, he was tumbled over.
If India do pull this victory off, I may forgive them for that Sydney Test fiasco. But honestly, this has much to do with Australian — Western? — arrogance. Ponting promised to bring the modern brand of aggressive cricket to the subcontinent, but, as Waugh found out in the 1990s, it just doesn’t work in India. What we just witnessed in the last hour — the early Australian aggression and attitude; the hubris and the cold judgment of luck; and then, the inexorable and humbling fall — is a level of drama and emotion that you won’t match for a long time, and certainly not in any Twenty20 game.