India have just lost their second wicket and stand-in captain Virat Kohli, the world’s 2nd most marketable sports star, arrives at the crease. A fired up Mitchell Johnson has removed Murali Vijay, caught behind for 53. Vijay looked set and was headed for a big score, before Johnson executed the quintessential fast-bowler’s wicket. Vijay’s fluent footwork and confident stroke play was obliterated by an over laced with unpredictable short and full pitched bowling.
Johnson then angled a perfectly pitched teaser across the right hander in the next over, and Vijay’s feet were stuck in mangrove mud. His hands offered a reactive stab at the passing ball and the result was a fine edge snaffled by Haddin. But I digress, Johnson’s first ball to Kohli is my focus.
Kohli ducked into a Johnson thunderbolt, taking the full brutish force in the front of the helmet. The Australian players and the umpire reacted immediately and surrounded Kohli to check his health; more evidence of the impact of recent events. Johnson was visibly shaken, but Kohli was fine and went on to score a brilliant hundred.
The media have made an enormous fuss about this and some commentators, from outside the game, have repeated their ridiculous call to review the bouncer.
But let’s be clear, it was not even a bouncer.
It was a waist height ball and Kohli, for whatever reason (probably poor judgement), ducked headlong into its path. It was reminiscent of a similar incident several years ago at the same venue. Sachin Tendulkar was struck somewhere on the shoulder after ducking into a thigh height Glenn McGrath delivery. He was given out plum LBW.
Day four is about to kick off. India are rattling along at 5/369 only 148 runs behind Australia. It’s a great Test match but the 60 overs lost to rain and poor light – unseasonable for Adelaide in December – may annul a result. Adelaide provides a great pitch to bat on, and Australia’s three centurions – Warner’s fine 145, Clarke’s “courageous” 128 and Smith’s 162 not out – had set Australia up.
The weather pushed Clarke into an overnight declaration and India’s batsmen have responded well. Something magical will be needed to extract a result for either side, almost certainly from one or more of the bowlers. The stage is set for the divisive Nathan Lyon. His dismal performance against Pakistan in the UAE and then a barren run in Shield matches caused myself and others to question the merit of his selection.Two good wickets yesterday act like a dam against a swelling river of public discontent. He needs wickets. He needs to bowl Australia to victory. Surely selection cannot be sustained on the promise of future success or the odd productive day.
Can Lyon do it at Adelaide or will India’s remaining batsmen set a lead and make in-roads into Australia’s inconsistent batting order? Australia are vulnerable given the mental pressure this side has endured since the tragic death of Phil Hughes.