Brisbane Test: So near and yet so far, once again for Dhoni & Co
Once India scored a mammoth 408 in the first innings, none of us even considered the possibility of an India loss. But we did and worst inside four days.
Australia's Mitchell Johnson celebrates Rohit Sharma's wicket with his teammates on Day Four of the second Test on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
In spite of being slightly ahead of Australia at the end of the first two days, sharing the honors at the end of third, we somehow ended up 0-2 on the fourth day. Such a spectacular shift in momentum is rarely seen in a Test match and hence can leave both players and supporters deflated.
It had been a brave call from MS Dhoni to bat after winning the toss and Murali Vijay's ton made sure that that brave call turned out to be the right call. India finished at 311-4 on Day One and looked set to pile on the agony on the second day.
Coach John Wright always told us that if you could bat five sessions in the first innings, you'd not only be in a position of strength but also would rarely end up on the losing side.
Rohit's loose shot
But India slipped from 311-4 to 408 all out in a dramatic turn of events. Rohit Sharma's loose shot to Shane Watson opened the floodgates and brought Australia back into the game. It was reminiscent of that famous Test match at Melbourne in 2003.
We had finished the first day on 329-4 courtesy Virender Sehwag's masterful 195 but squandered the advantage on the second day when we the remaining six wickets fell for a meager 37 runs. The Australian team of that era wasn't the one that would allow the opposition to come back and, as expected, batted us out of the game. Thankfully that didn't happen in Brisbane.
Australia gave India a sniff a couple of times and when they lost their sixth wicket on 247, I was convinced that India would create history. But what transpired in the first 30 minutes of Mitchell Johnson's innings left me speechless, for India only bowled bouncers. We kept bowling short and he kept hitting them. It was a tactical failure that allowed the game to slip away from India.
India fight back, but...
From looking like taking a substantial lead to falling behind by 97 runs was frustrating to watch. So near and yet so far, once again. I was glad to see that India bounced back again and wiped off 71 runs of that lead by the end of third day's play and had nine wickets in hand.
Honors were even at the end of Day Three and that was a relief. First session of the fourth day held the key to India's success. Had India won that session or even drawn those two hours of play, India would've gone on to create history but that wasn't the case.
Indian batting, for the first time on this tour, capitulated. It was unbelievable that India started the day on 71-1 and within no time the scoreboard read 87-5. Some good bowling, some insipid batting and above all the decision to delay Shikhar Dhawan's arrival to the crease because of a wrist injury simply killed India's chances.
Indians would have had an extra bowler in the form of 'scoreboard pressure' in the last innings but the batting collapse didn't allow that to happen. Australia reached the target with only four wickets to spare and vindicated my belief that even after squandering the advantage twice India was only 60-70 more runs short of making history.
Australia hasn't lost a Test match at Gabba in 25 years and that enviable record stays. India, on the other hand, might find it hard to forget this loss. Hopefully though they'd pep themselves up and move on. Though it's not going to be easy.