Australia A v Indians, Hobart, 3rd day December 21, 2003

Clarke century brightens drawn match

Australia A 311 for 5 dec (Love 94) and 241 for 7 dec (Clarke 131*) drew with Indians 245 (Nicholson 4-25) and 66 for 2

Michael Clarke cut loose with a fine century
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The three-day match at Hobart petered out to a draw, after Australia A set the Indians an unrealistic target of 308 in a minimum of 41 overs on the final day. The Indians opted for batting practice instead, and scored a laboured 66 for 2.

Before the declaration, Michael Clarke played the knock of the match, an unbeaten 131. Earlier, he had resurrected Australia A's innings with Brad Hodge and Wade Seccombe for company. Hodge and Clarke went about adding runs with well-placed shots after Australia A were precariously placed at 28 for 3. A meaningful partnership ensued, and both batsmen increasingly came to terms with the bowlers. Just then, Irfan Pathan, who bowled with great heart but no luck, banged a delivery into the pitch, and Hodge swivelled, intending a pull. The ball stayed low, and Hodge played it onto his stumps.

Soon after, Cameron White pulled a similar delivery, and to Ashish Nehra's glee, the ball went straight to Deep Dasgupta at square leg (112 for 5).

Seccombe came out and played the quick bowlers aggressively, but lost the plot with Murali Kartik, whose flight and change of pace kept the batsmen honest. Stepping out to smash one, Seccombe could not get to the pitch of the ball, and spooned a simple catch to Virender Sehwag at midwicket.

Clarke then stepped up the pace, and gave the Indians a nightmarish time. Rocking back to a short ball from Kartik, he cut it for four, and then lofted the next ball over mid-on to the fence. This was followed by a similar shot, with the same result. Kartik's next over to Clarke resulted in a pull to the midwicket boundary, and ended with the ball in the stands at long-off. Clarke was now in the nineties.

After bowling one relatively quiet over to Clarke, Kartik started his next with a waist-high full-toss. Clarke, on 97, scattered the spectators at square leg with a big hit to reach his eighth first-class hundred. Later, a flick of the wrists sent another ball sailing over the midwicket fence. Sachin Tendulkar was brought on to replace Kartik, but that didn't make much difference: a long-hop was bowled, and Clarke made it disappear. Soon after, Australia A declared.

Akash Chopra took over an hour to score his first run, while at the other end of the spectrum, Sadagoppan Ramesh (22) went into overdrive, cutting and hooking the opening bowlers, before a short ball from Damien Wright hurried onto him, and the intended hook resulted in a steepling catch at midwicket (22 for 1).

Dasgupta came out to bat, and was circumspect with deliveries outside the off stump. Anything on leg was picked off for boundaries, but even those were a rarity. Shaun Tait's first delivery squared him up, but somehow Dasgupta managed to edge it past slip for four.

For a while, with both batsmen scoreless, it was a battle for survival out in the middle. Chopra then showed everybody he could score, by square-driving Tait to the boundary. To prove the four wasn't a fluke, he took another in Tait's next over.

After scoring 25 off 98 balls, Chopra hung his bat out to a straight ball, and edged it to Seccombe (66 for 2). Parthiv Patel came in to bat, but an over later the game was called off.

For Australia A, there were plenty of positives. Martin Love, with 94 in the first innings, staked his claim for a spot in the post-Waugh Test squad, while Tait and Matthew Nicholson demanded respect with their bowling. And Clarke, well, he just made the bowlers look bad.

The Indians were disappointing on the field, looking off-colour, and making no attempt to transform the game into a competitive one. The team lacked application while batting, apart from Chopra and Patel, who stood their ground and scored runs. Sehwag and Tendulkar played sparkling but brief knocks, while Sourav Ganguly played a forgettable shot. Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji troubled the batsmen, and gave the team management something to think about before the third Test.