There is just something about Test Cricket, isn’t there? The mind games that took place in the post-tea session on the second day exemplify why the longest form of the game is also the most cherished. Half the game is played in the mind according to most experts, but what that also means of course is that the other half is played on skill and talent. And when that skill and talent is tagged to none other than Sachin Tendulkar, the battle is even more spectacular and normally has only one sure victor.
The post-tea session on Day Two of the Boxing Day Test must have been a treat for all lovers of the Test game. Pattinson had looked quite troubling pre-Tea, bowling a fiery spell to Sehwag. In a memorable two over period he had ripped a few down Sehwag’s throat and hadn’t given the batsman any room to open his arms on the offside. Despite how well the opener had played he had looked suspect against the odd ball seaming onto his pads all day. Pattinson was clever enough to have picked up on this and finally had his man when he jagged one back onto the middle stump.
One would have thought with Pattinson bowling so well, having the support of the home crowd behind him and wanting to be the one to quash every Indian’s dream of a Tendulkar ton, he would have been allowed to carry on. Instead, Clarke going with his style of changing things up even when they seem to be working, handed Siddle the ball from the Member’s End. The first ball was pitched in short and Sachin played an immaculate upper cut for six that had become the signature shot from his last two tours Down Under. Thinking the shot was too high risk, Clarke let the third slip stay in place. Two overs later, to the frustration of the Australian captain Sachin repeated the magnificent shot for four.
Having seen the master artistically flick, straight drive, and then cover drive the bowlers, Clarke was forced into a different approach. He took the third man back and asked Siddle to pitch it in short. Hoping against hope that Sachin would now time one sweetly into the waiting hands of the boundary rider. The master however just went along in his merry way taking the third-man spoke out of his wagon wheel. The only scoring shot that would come down there from his bat during the period was an edge that flew past the originally occupied third slip. A frustrated Clarke was on his haunches again and decided to change it up once more.
Pattinson was brought back in and something was whispered to Warner at gully who ran down with the message to the young quickie from Victoria. Meanwhile third man ran in the same direction to place himself in a floating slip position. Clarke this time wanted Sachin to attempt the cut but mistime it to the close in fielder, still convinced that it was the upper cut that was going to be the Master’s downfall. Pattinson, having got the message, ran in with a purpose and pitched it in a bit short. With sublime ease, the ball was deposited over the slips yet again.
Throughout this whole exchange Clarke might have thought he was spinning a web for Tendulkar, trying to outsmart the little man into playing to his tune. But there are times in Cricket when skill outshines the cunning of the mind and it is best on such occasions to just stick to the basics. Sachin’s dismissal at the end of the day’s play proved just that, when he fell not to Warner’s long hops, or to the “risky” upper cut but rather to the good old just off-a-length in dipper. Clarke had only to recall his dismissal from yesterday to know that on this pitch that was the right ploy from the start, for in the mood Sachin was in at the G today you are better off playing the game than the master.