'I made up my mind to lead the attack' - RP Singh
It's tough to get too many words out of RP Singh but he made the ball talk on the first morning. Leading the attack for the first time, he lifted spirits on a day which began all wrong. Thrust into the spearheads' role in just his ninth Test, he turned in two spells that showed he belongs.
Not only did RP have to come to terms with Zaheer Khan's absence but also be told that his captain has lost the toss. He was largely insipid in Melbourne and was himself coming off a side strain, an injury which ruled him out of the series against Pakistan. Nobody could have blamed him if he felt lonely walking into a packed SCG.
"I was a bit disappointed that Zaheer was injured," he said sombrely, "but I made up my mind to lead the attack. I was a bit nervous to start with but a chat with my coach and support staff helped. I told myself to stick to the basics and the good thing was that our plans worked out really well."
It isn't his first visit to Australia. RP was at the Brisbane-based academy back in 2002, learning from, ironically, Australia's current coach Tim Nielsen. "He told me about the conditions in Australia and how to bowl here. I was here for 25 days and learnt a lot."
Watching RP from the VIP Box in the Bradman Stand, was Alan Davidson, one of the best left-armers of all time. "He's got a good action," said Davidson. "He attacked the Australian batsman with movement. The best thing he is doing is that he is bowling within himself, not trying to bowl too quick, which is the biggest mistake some bowlers make. You don't need extra speed to get wickets. I broke my ankle twice trying to bowl too quick and that is the best thing to have happened to me because after that I was forced to concentrate on control and movement."
RP, though, was quicker than he was at Melbourne, striking the mid 130s regularly. He wasn't intimidated with Matthew Hayden's bully-like aggression, neither was he put off by Michael Hussey's urgency for fours and singles alike. "The plan was to cut down on the boundary-balls and we wanted to keep them down. It worked for half the day. The pitch got slower after that. The ball also got older and made it tough."
He admitted that Brad Hogg, who he termed a "tailender", had "surprised" them with his fine innings. But there was an optimistic note to end with: "It will be a better batting wicket tomorrow and we have a great batting line-up. If we can use the new ball better and get them out we will still have a good chance."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo