Australia get the rub of Green
The big allrounder missed the first two Tests but his return to fitness has helped the visitors find the right balance
The big men, with their reach and huge forward stride, present a unique challenge to bowlers. And India knows that better than most.
In the 70s and early 80s, former West Indies captain and middle-order batter Clive Lloyd (who was 1.93 m tall) plundered runs against India almost at will. In 14 Tests, he scored 1359 runs at an average of 75.50 -- it remains the highest aggregate of runs scored by a visiting batter. Alastair Cook wasn't as tall as Lloyd but at 1.88 m, he was tall enough. He scored 1235 runs in 13 Tests at an average of 51.45. In between the above-mentioned batters, there was Matthew Hayden (1.88 m tall) who employed the sweep to telling effect in India. In 11 Tests, he scored 1027 runs at an average of 51.35.
Being tall alone though isn't enough. You had to be skilled as well and if you were, the bowlers would have to change their length and that itself could sometimes do the trick. It's still early days but a new threat is emerging from the 'big men' stable in the form of 23-year-old Cameron Green. The Australia batter, who is 1.98 m tall, is beginning to take a liking for the Indian attack, and on Day 2 of the fourth Test match of the Border-Gavaskar series, the right-hander served a warning with a fine 114, his maiden Test hundred.
Opener Usman Khawaja, who made 180 off 422 balls, was like a rock on the easy-paced surface but it was the enterprise of Green -- during their superb 208-run fifth-wicket partnership -- that ensured the pressure will be on India for the rest of the game. Australia amassed a total of 480 runs and unless the pitch at the Narendra Modi Stadium breaks considerably and Australia suffer a dramatic collapse in the second essay, the best the home side can expect is to draw this game. That too will be dependent on how well the hosts bat in their first innings.
Now, Rohit Sharma & Co also have to keep an eye on the proceedings of the New Zealand versus Sri Lanka series and wish that the hosts put SL out of the World Test Championship race by avoiding an upset.
With their tail also wagging, the visitors kept the Indian players in the field for 167.2 overs, close to six sessions. A tired India side had 10 overs to negotiate after R Ashwin picked the last Australian wicket to fall at the stroke of 4 pm. Openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill did that with ease, reaching 36 for no loss at close of play.
Off-spinner Ashwin was the stand-out bowler for the home team with a six-wicket haul (47.2-15-91-6). On an unresponsive pitch, it was a reward for bowling consistently.hOther Indian bowlers: 4-377er Indian bowlers: 4-377
GREEN LIGHTS UP PLAY
A superstar in the making, Green is relishing batting against India. His earlier highest score, 84, was also against India, during his debut series in 2020-21, in the second innings of the Sydney. In Indian conditions, he is rattling up one impact innings after another. Last year, he came here and caught attention with his dynamic batting in the Twenty20 games. He had a 30-ball 61 and a 21-ball 52 where he mauled Bhuvneshwar Kumar & Co. The Indian Premier League teams sat up and took notice.
The Mumbai Indians fans will be quite excited about his form after their team picked him at the auction for R17.50 crore. The difference he makes to any side can be seen in this series. He missed the first two Tests due to injury and it affected the balance of the side, in both bowling and batting. Australia lost both games. He returned for the third game and the momentum in the series started to shift. After playing a limited role in the Indore game, he played at his best in the fourth Test.
Ashwin had no hesitation in calling Green a once-in-a-generation cricketer.
“Green, I think is a fantastic player and the raw material that is available, tall, lovely levers, good batting sense, can hit the deck hard while bowling, moves pretty well. These are once-in-a-generation cricketers that you are talking about. In countries like Australia and England, these cricketers are groomed pretty well. Expect Cam Green to be a wonderful cricketer down the line.”
Green's strength is that he is not the typical power-hitter who can play in top gear alone. The player from Perth is a technically sound batter who adapts to the ebb and flow of the game. If he was attacking in the evening, on resumption in the morning on Day 2 he understood the importance of being cautious and not taking any undue risks. With Khawaja standing firm at the other end, he gave the first hour to the Indian bowlers before taking on the pace bowlers when they came on.
On the slow pitch, where stroke-making is not easy, his drives through the offside stood out. He was particularly severe on Umesh Yadav.
KHAWAJA’S MARATHON EFFORT
It was a tough start to the day for India. The determination in Khawaja’s play was unmistakable. A stroke player who likes to get on with the game, the left-handed curbed his natural attacking instincts. He stood like a rock for Australia, batting for 611 minutes (422 balls, 21x4), the third longest innings by an overseas batter in terms of minutes.
If the first day was about proving his doubters wrong, the second was about seizing the opportunity and helping his team get into a position from where they can dictate terms.
Australia kept piling on the runs, adding 92 in 29 overs without any loss in the first session. At lunch, Khawaja was batting on 150 and Green 95, as the tourists were 347/4. India came back in the second session through a fine catch on the leg side by KS Bharat to get rid of Green. Ashwin picked two more in the session. Axar Patel struck on the first ball after tea to end Khawaja’s marathon stint but India’s misery continued even after Khawaja’s exit. The tail continued to apply themselves. Nathan Lyon (31 runs) and Todd Murphy (41) combined to stick together a partnership of 70 runs to stretch the total.