Hodge hundred leads Victorian reply
Close Victoria 348 for 5 (Hodge 153*, Harvey 54*) lead Indians 266 for 9 dec by 82 runs
Brad Hodge: a commanding innings
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The Indians got an early taste of what might be in store for their bowlers over the next couple of months, as Victoria cruised to 348 for 5 at close of play on the second day of the warm-up match at Melbourne, a first-innings lead of 82. Brad Hodge led the way, hammering an unbeaten 153, while Matthew Elliott, Jonathon Moss and Ian Harvey all chipped in with useful contributions. Earlier, the Indians had declared at their overnight total of 266 for 9.
The Indian bowlers did a decent job at the start of the day, keeping the scoring rate down to around two an over, but lost their way after lunch as Hodge cut loose. He, and most of the Victorian batsmen, were especially severe on Harbhajan Singh, for whom it was a nightmare start to the tour. Touted as one of the main wicket-taking options for India on this tour, Harbhajan was anything but threatening as he repeatedly pitched it short and was spanked square of the wicket on the off side. And when he attempted to flight the ball, most of the batsmen were prepared to use their feet and play attacking strokes.
After Ashish Nehra gave the Indians an early wicket, having Jason Arnberger caught by Rahul Dravid at slip for 8 (21 for 1), Elliott and Hodge stitched together a fine 64-run stand. Harbhajan broke that partnership when Elliott edged a catch to Sadagoppan Ramesh at silly point, but then came the most productive period for Victoria, as Hodge and Moss pummelled an increasingly lacklustre Indian attack.
The pair had added 107 off just 22 overs when the Indians got the breakthough in bizarre fashion. Harbhajan, back into the firing line after a brief respite, flighted one which was driven back to the bowler by Moss, who, for some reason, continued to advance down the pitch. Harbhajan flung the ball back at the stumps leaving Moss stranded (192 for 3). Moss made 42.
Harbhajan Singh: a forgettable start to the tour
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David Hussey (21) continued the assault on Harbhajan, though, advancing down the pitch to hit a couple of fours and a six over long-on. Nehra, the best of the three seamers, forced Hussey to edge a catch to slip, and when Andrew McDonald was trapped in front by Harbhajan, Victoria had suddenly lost two wickets in five balls (232 for 5).
All hopes of an Indian fightback were quickly scotched as Hodge and Harvey then put together the second century partnership of the innings. Hodge slowed down considerably after reaching his hundred, which came off just 138 balls. Harvey started slowly, then picked up momentum with some booming hits, including the obligatory six off Harbhajan.
After some woefully inaccurate stuff, Harbhajan seemed to find better rhythm in the final session, but by now Hodge and Harvey had turned their attention to the Indian seamers. Balaji, especially, lost both his line and length and was carved away for boundaries square of the wicket on both sides. With a healthy lead already in the bag, Victoria have an opportunity to pile on some more quick runs and then ask some questions of the Indian batting on the final day.