Melbourne: On the first morning of the Test match, bowlers should always be content to be driven rather than cut or pulled, according to most bowling coaches.
India adopted this strategy meticulously for the first four innings in the series. Unfortunately, the lateral movement through the air or off the pitch was lacking and Australia had succeeded at driving the bowlers in the initial overs in Adelaide and Brisbane.
On Day One at Melbourne, the pitch seamed enough to warrant a full length again but the Indian bowlers erred, bowling back of the length far too often. They had been brave enough for four innings but when it mattered they took a backward step.
Need fuller length
Only eight balls were pitched fuller than six metres in the first 15 overs. It took Mohammad Shami 13 balls to pitch one fuller than six metres to Shane Watson. He finally did it in the 24th over and the ball was edged to slip only to have it put down by Shikhar Dhawan to offer Shane Watson a life.
India’s bowling plans to Watson also seemed to be year too late as well. Watson has a problem of planting his foot and playing around his front pad but since the 2013 Ashes in England, 10 out of his 14 dismissals to seam bowlers have been caught behind the wicket.
Bowling to Watson
Watson’s front foot plonk is less extenuated now but it he has become uncertain of his off stump. Had India studied this pattern they perhaps would have bowled more outside off stump rather than aiming at Watson pads right from the start. India was only allowed to crawl back into game through Ashwin’s consistency and the strange field placements for Steve Smith.
The minute the Australian captain walked in, Dhoni had set a mid-on and long on, one man almost behind each other. The plan was to stop Smith scoring a single and to stop him lofting down the ground. Add to it a tight on side field and Ashwin executed the plan perfectly. Smith only scored two of the 21 balls from the off spinner, before finally taking a gamble and lofting him over mid-off.
Only a man in such rich vein of form could have executed such a brilliant shot. It set Australia in motion once again and India will be ruing the fact they had deviated from their initial plans with the new ball.