In my last article I mentioned player fatigue and how it will be a hard slog to get this series in India. The performance today was quite a hot and cold one, with definite signs of minor exhaustion in some players, but the mental approach is that the 7 match ODI series, while a real stretch, is now facing the standing of a best of three series. Three matches left and it is 2-2. Whoever loses two, there it goes.
One sad point for the crowd was that Sachin Tendulkar didn't reach his 17000 runs landmark but next game may be the moment and as we wait for that moment, the poor blokes who organise the fireworks will have to move them to next venue. During the game I see there were quite a few 'duds' going off every now and then.
However the bowlers did an excellent job to dismiss India 24 runs short of chasing down a total of 250, which seemed to be a bit concerning considering the way our batting lost the plot in the final 10 overs.
Mitchell Johnson was the only bowler who took a beating, notably from Virender Sehwag who just dispatched any delivery Mitch sent his way to the boundary. I am without a doubt certain that both Mitch and Peter Siddle are looking forward to putting their feet up for a week or so. It's been alot of cricket and I'm sure that Sid's was really pleased that he only needed to offer 5 overs to the team.
He kept it simple and just outside of off-stump, which resulted in a good job to make sure that the other bowlers could follow in his wake.
Sure enough first change up and Doug Bollinger was already in with a wicket. This soon followed with another and then it was a collapse for India.
Nathan Hauritz was once again a key element as he was economical and showed no fear in tossing them up to lure the Indian middle order to take him on.
While MS Dhoni and Yuvraj tried to recreate some of their magic from the other night, but with some outstanding fielding (Ricky Ponting of course!) the partnership was at an end and Shane Watson, who didn't bowl last game, came on with a terrific spell that ensured he wrapped up the India tail-enders.
He bowled a similar way to Peter Siddle and this proved to be the key in ending India's night. A mean comeback from Watto, and I love a bit of payback!
It was an effort to be proud of as I think it took alot of fight to win this match.
As for Harbhajan Singh, he once again, somehow, managed to get under our skin but luckily due to Watto's quick reflexes, that caught and bowled was the decider and Harbhajan couldn't cause an upset.
The batting raised some interesting points as far as big-hitting goes, but I think India deserve credit as 4 run-outs determined alot in dismissing Ricky Ponting, Cameron White, Graham Manou and Doug Bollinger.
Punter's batting though was once again breath-taking. I think to many people have criticised him. Sure, his Captaincy can be mind-boggling at times but he is a world-class batsman, the best of a generation and when he retires we will miss his maestro-like dominance when he is settled at the crease. In a mindset and momentum like he was, a run-out is the only way you will get him out. Remember the Flintoff run-out in the Ashes?
So Punter and Watto put together a strong stand, with Michael Hussey yet again playing a fine innings. Huss and Punter have been in top form, that is always match-winning stuff. Although the highlight for me was that Cameron White and Shane Watson contributed, which is what we need. The seniors leading the way while the upcoming guys play around them to their capabilities.
Cam White is finding his place in the side and certainly up to the challenge at number 4 with Michael Clarke out of the picture for the time being. I like Cam there as he is flexible in the order (like Huss) and he has the big hitter aspect, although this has been somewhat dormant in comparison to what we have seen from The Bear in the past! An approach from a maturing cricketer maybe?
The final 10 overs went down hill rather fast, but the bowlers saved our skin.
Yet another fine effort from Punter and Co. at the top order stressed the importance in partnerships with ease and grace. Something that MS and Yuvraj did last match.
This series has been kept alive and there is still some tough cricket lying ahead!
The results will be there and while there are many aspects that we all believe need to be looked at (notably the big-hitter element) we cannot recreate the Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden duo. Will we not have another Andrew Symonds and it is an era that has come and gone.
It is important to remember that these guys also took alot of high's and low's in their careers (notably Haydos) to get to the leverage within their own abilties to go out and become entertaining match-winners.
So the guys like Watto, Shaun Marsh, David Warner, Phillip Hughes and Cameron White, are all very good cricketer's who are all relatively young in their careers given that opportunities have only opened up to being somewhat prosperous in recent months.
I think patience is the key here as a supporter and that things do look good. They really do look good.
I emphasize that the player's are tired. They have been on the go for a while now, more than any other team, so there will be mistakes, there will be performances that do not reflect the core-strength of this team and winning the Champions Trophy should be enough to indicate the characteristics of the boys and their fighting spirit. After losing an Ashes series they bounced back in style. Don't forget we have more than half a team of injured key players, which add's to the cause to in a demanding way on emerging player's to suddenly step-up to drastic circumstances.
Patience is the key and I think focusing on backing the team to winning this series is the most we can do. It will be a great achievement and the NSP will some time to then assemble and hopefully make the right decisions.