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India batters grind the Aussies with their class and fortitude

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Last updated on 22 Dec 2023 | 03:01 PM
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India batters grind the Aussies with their class and fortitude

The lead has already reached 157, with the Test moving in one direction

Death, taxes, and the Indian batters making the bowling team grind out for an entire day and then some more! 

If it was the Indian bowlers who claimed the glory on Day 1, it was the batters whose act headlined the proceedings on Day 2. The first two sessions swung gently between both teams like a lab pendulum, but eventually, the skill and perseverance of Indian batters halted its harmonic motion in the third session, with India at 372-7 by the end of the day's play. 

Jemi and Richa grind out the Aussies

You talk to Jemimah Rodrigues about partnerships in Test matches, and her eyes suddenly light up. She understands how important they are. Her team also showed it in the first game, where none of the batters scored a hundred, but the team still posted 428 runs with two century partnerships. 

In this Test against Australia, the same pattern of partnership batting continued for India. 

Smriti Mandhana and Sneh Rana, the two overnight batters, started off sedately, their defence astute and impenetrable. Rana played 57 balls in her blockathon and persevered through the tricky morning conditions. She also shielded Mandhana from Ashleigh Garnder’s off-spin, which has been her downfall many times before. 

Meanwhile, Mandhana looked an absolute goddess with her off-side play. Not a single bowler troubled her. However, a misunderstanding occurred, which was followed by a runout and suddenly, with Rana and Mandhana gone, India were stuck in a quagmire on a challenging pitch where a collapse looked perennially possible. 

That’s when a partnership saved India and put them in the ascendancy. 

Jemimah Rodrigues, playing her second Test within a week, and Richa Ghosh, having made her debut a day before, batted like Test match pros. Mind you, this wasn’t a classic Wankhede track with pace in it. It has been slow, low, and has often turned sharply when the bowlers have tried to give it a rip. 

However, both Jemimah and Richa batted with immense concentration. Both of them followed the ball like a hawk and were able to make late adjustments against the turning ball with ease. In between, whenever a chance was provided, they were very quick to latch onto anything short, wide or full. 

Jemimah played her favourite sweep shot against spin and some scrumptious cover drives. Despite having the down-the-ground hitting prowess, Richa controlled her attacking instincts and played some cracking drives through the off-side. 

They started batting together when the Indian total was 147-3. When Richa got out trying to hit a big one after her fifty, India’s score was 260-4, and a lead of 31 runs was in their pocket. It was all due to the safe, mature, and skilful batting from both the youngsters who, don’t forget, were up against the mighty Australian team. 

Test cricket is the format that separates the average cricketers from the ‘good’ ones. By batting like seasoned pros and scoring 73 and 52, Jemimah and Richa showed they are more than just ‘good’ cricketers. 

Ashleigh Gardner - The Lonely Warrior

You might have seen that meme from Game of Thrones where Jon Snow is fighting alone against an entire cavalry fleet. You won’t find a better description of Ashleigh Gardner's efforts on the second day of the test. 

Garnder has played five Tests in her career. Never before has she bowled more than 30 overs in an innings. Today, she bowled 36 overs in the day alone and 41 in total in the innings, which still hasn’t ended. 

She bowled non-stop from the beginning of the day’s play, except for a few short breaks in between, and just kept bowling and bowling and bowling. 

To bowl a lot of overs is one thing. To bowl well enough to trouble a batting lineup hell-bent on survival is another. Gardner’s greatness today was in how she managed to do both efficiently. She has taken four of the seven Indian wickets to fall, apart from troubling the Indian batters throughout the day. 

Visiting spinners, especially the ones from South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia, are much quicker than visiting Indian spinners in general. Ashleigh Gardner follows that trend to T by not only being quicker today (average speed ~ 79 KMPH) but also quite flat in her trajectory, alongside being extremely accurate on the good length for spinners. 

Her accuracy and a flatter trajectory made her quite dangerous on this pitch, which already had a lot of wear and tear, as she got the ball to turn prodigiously under those conditions. With the ball staying low, it proved even tougher to play her, as Harmanpreet Kaur realised it after getting pinned by an ankle-high delivery that also turned like a rash biker on a traffic signal. 

She also picked up Jemimah and Yastika after that to ensure the game hung in the balance at the end of the second session. She made Australia see some hope finally. But sadly for them, it was quashed brutally by two inevitable allrounders. 

Deepti, Pooja and the tale of inevitable brilliance

Genuine all-rounders are like a video game cheat code in Test Cricket. One player is equal to the worth of two. But not every team is blessed with all-rounders who are equally effective with both the ball and the bat during a time period. Allrounders like that are rare to come. There will probably be only one Ellyse Perry or Jacques Kallis in a decade. 

The Indian women’s team are blessed with not one but two such genuine all-rounders. 

Deepti Sharma scored a fifty to act as a cherry over her decadent nine-wicket haul flavour cake in the last game. In this test, she has already got two wickets in the first Australian innings. Sharma would have gotten more than two wickets, but Pooja Vastrakar intervened, with her stump shattering four wickets on a turning track. In the last game, Pooja also picked up four wickets on an even more spinner-friendly track. 

Those performances were enough for fans to gush about them for months. However, in the third session of Day 2, they put on another show of their inevitable brilliance with the bat after four wickets within ten overs had derailed the Indian innings. 

Both batted with a watertight defence, blunting every turning ball with ease that threatened to break their stumps. They absorbed the pressure, but once they were set on the tricky track, they easily hit off the bad balls and swelled India’s lead past 150. 

It is just a luxury to have two such batters at number eight and nine who can play out 242 deliveries and score 102 runs on them. The opposition toiled hard for the seven wickets, but these two erected a concrete dam that prevented any further wickets from falling. 

With a lead of 157, Indian women look primed to end the Test on Day 3 itself. It will all depend on when the Indian innings end and if the Australian batters can show the grit, determination and fortitude the Indian batting showed today. 

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