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The Wisden Bulletin by Rahul Bhatia
December 19, 2003
Close Indians 35 for 1 (Dasgupta 16*, Chopra 12*) trail Australia A 311 for 5 (Love 94, Rogers 70, Hussey 67) by 276 runs
Martin Love glides into, ahem, a Love-ly off-drive
© Getty Images
Australia A subjected the Indians to a hard day on the field, first racking up 311, and then testing their batsmen for 13 overs, dismissing Sadagoppan Ramesh in the process. The Indians ended day one at 35 for 1, with Akash Chopra and Deep Dasgupta still batting.
The day belonged largely to Australia A, who dominated the first and last sessions on the first day of the three-day game in Hobart. Overcast conditions, a steady breeze, and a moist pitch were of no use to the Indian bowlers, who bowled the wrong line and length, and gifted width to the batsmen. Chris Rogers, Michael Hussey, and Martin Love accepted the offerings gleefully, racking up half-centuries to put the Indians on the ropes.
Rogers and Hussey began circumspectly, but once they realised that Lakshmipathy Balaji was not getting any movement, either in the air or off the pitch, they opened up and dealt in boundaries. Hussey was noticeably strong off his legs, despite which the bowlers insisted on bowling half-volleys at his pads. When the bowling demanded it, he went on the defensive, but was always alert to scoring opportunities. A loose ball by Ashish Nehra was hit over midwicket for six, and another by Irfan Pathan rocketed into the point fence.
Rogers, on the other hand, didn't care where the ball was. His trademark shot was the intended cover-drive that was edged airily past gully for a boundary. This occured four times. There would have been a fifth, but Ramesh was in the way, and in the spirit of the morning session, dropped the catch. Edgy strokes were mixed with delicate glances off the hips, and a push off a Balaji special long hop raced to the long-off fence. Before anyone knew it, Rogers was past 50. And this was only the first hour.
Rogers's (70) good luck with edges ended when Sourav Ganguly swung a ball away, which caught the edge of the bat on its way to Dasgupta, the wicketkeeper. However, the dismissal did not stop the flood of runs, as Hussey and Love kept attacking the bowlers in a move to put them on the psychological back foot.
It worked. A hugely attacking field became more defensive as the batsmen found gaps with ease. Insipid fielding did not help the Indians. The fielders let balls through their legs, and their returns from the outfield were leisurely. In sheer frustration, Balaji bowled three short deliveries to Love, who tip-toed and punched the balls through cover, finding the gap between three fielders on one occasion.
Mike Hussey has a go
© Getty Images
Hussey kept scoring in singles and twos, and after passing his fifty, opened up to attack. The attack lasted precisely one ball, as an attempted pull to midwicket off Nehra looped to mid-on, and Ganguly made a difficult catch look simple (204 for 2). On the last ball before tea, Nehra followed this up with a ball that pitched on off and swerved in, crashing into the off stump after passing through the tiny gap Brad Hodge left between his bat and pad (207 for 3).
Michael Clarke joined Love after the tea break, and it was evident that a declaration was on the cards. Love, who was cautiously aggressive earlier, went on an all-out assault. And Clarke joined the party just as it started. A delivery by Murali Kartik landed in the midwicket stands, while Balaji and Pathan were cut and pulled savagely to the boundary.
Kartik, whose bowling commanded respect earlier in the day, found nearly every ball he bowled in his last spell dispatched to the boundary, or somewhere near it. Figures of 15.4 overs for 64 runs with a solitary wicket did not reflect the control with which he bowled, nor how hard the batsmen worked for their runs.
Love's fifty took 94 balls, but his next 43 runs came in just 36. By far the most relaxed batsman on view today, he was set for a century, but fell cutting a Pathan delivery too close to his body, for Dasgupta to take a regulation catch (279 for 4).
Clarke and Cameron White then launched into the Indian bowlers, adding 23 runs in quick time, before White took a swipe at a Kartik floater, and had his stumps disturbed (302 for 5). Soon after, Australia A declared at 311 for 5.
Ramesh (4) lasted all of nine balls, before a Matthew Nicholson delivery hit the back of his bat and floated to gully. At 5 for 1, the Indians were given a good wake-up call, and Chopra and Dasgupta stood firm till the end of the day.
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