India v Australia, 4th Test, Mumbai, 1st day

Damp start to the Mumbai Test

The Report by Dileep Premachandran

November 3, 2004

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India 22 for 2 (Dravid 9*, Tendulkar 2*) v Australia
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Jason Gillespie was at his hostile best and exploited the bowler-friendly conditions in Mumbai © Getty Images
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On a day blighted by unseasonal and intermittent drizzle, India struggled to 22 for 2 in the 11 overs possible after Rahul Dravid had won the toss and elected to bat. Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar were at the crease when bad light stopped play after India had lost both openers with just 11 on the board.

With morning showers having muddied the practice pitches and the areas near the boundary rope, play didn't start until 2pm. After an early lunch, Australia had gathered in a huddle a while before the toss, with Glenn McGrath presenting the Baggy Green cap to Nathan Hauritz, the 390th player to represent Australia.

The Indians had their initiation ceremony off the field, with Polly Umrigar handing over the cap to Gautam Gambhir and Kiran More doing the honours for Dinesh Karthik, the 249th and 250th players to represent India. Surprisingly, given the atmospheric conditions and the tinge of green on the pitch, India went in with three spinners, leaving Ashish Nehra to 12th man duties.

Gambhir, Virender Sehwag's Delhi team-mate, thus became his fifth opening partner, but the association didn't get off to the most auspicious start. Gambhir flicked the first ball he faced, a leg-stump half-volley from McGrath, on to Simon Katich's shin at forward short leg, and after a single to fine leg had taken him off strike, Sehwag slashed the first ball he faced to gully where Hauritz put down a sharp chance to his left.

Another uppish prod past the slip cordon suggested that Sehwag was living dangerously, and McGrath was soon to get his man. After a straight-drive was stroked back at him, McGrath feigned an angry throw back to Adam Gilchrist while catching Sehwag's eye. The next ball was full, moved in slightly off the seam and Sehwag's airy swish did nothing but provide a yawning chasm between pad and bat for the ball to pass through before it cannoned into the stumps.

Gambhir followed almost immediately, trapped in front by a Jason Gillespie delivery that pitched on leg stump and nipped back a touch. That was the signal for Sachin Tendulkar to emerge to rapturous acclaim, but unfortunately the raindrops too trailed in his wake. Tea was taken early, but by the time the rain relented and the players came back out, another two hours had been lost.

And in overcast conditions that were made-to-order for world cricket's greatest fast-bowling combination, Dravid and Tendulkar had to draw on their immense experience, and a few touches of luck, to survive a searching seven-over examination before even the floodlight-enhanced light became inadequate to sight the red ball.

Dravid edged a Gillespie delivery through the slip cordon for four, and then played a glorious off-drive to suggest a return to more prolific form, while Tendulkar played out 31 balls for his 2. McGrath also had a confident shout for leg before turned down after Tendulkar shouldered arms to one that seamed back from outside off stump. For a crowd already demoralised by the series loss, it was a small mercy to be thankful for.

Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.

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Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to MyIndia.com followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and total-cricket.com. Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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