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November 5, 2004
Nathan Hauritz first played cricket in Hervey Bay, the Queensland town famous for whale-watching and little else, so he is not intimidated by top-of-the-food-chain mammals. On an unlikely debut he was charged with netting Sachin Tendulkar, the game's Moby Dick, and bravely - successfully - accepted it. Call him Nathan.
Already his bowling had taken a surprise turn in the first innings, but getting three wickets from a wilting tail is not breaking into the home of a national hero. India's deficit was 33 when Hauritz entered the hunt again after opening the bowling in the shadows of day two. He was given one over to settle before Tendulkar started giving Hauritz the horrors.
Tendulkar has crushed spinners' dreams all over the world, and he launched Hauritz into the stand at long-on between two thumping fours. Bowling in the same way that has tied down domestic batsmen which had propelled him to eight one-day internationals, his first six balls to Tendulkar had gone for 15. Spinners are coached to expect the occasional demolition and doubtless Hauritz has been slogged, but for him this was a new, frightening experience. Adam Gilchrist ran over for a chat and Hauritz listened, offering only a disbelieving laugh.
Essentially a tour net bowler, Hauritz, 23, was picked to learn about Indian conditions, provide practice to batsmen who had struggled against Harbhajan Singh, and be an emergency replacement for Shane Warne. Australia taking three spinners to India, none of them Stuart MacGill, was an indulgence. With Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Brett Lee, and the part-time twirlers of Simon Katich, Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann, a Warne injury or a fierce turner were Hauritz's only chances of a Test.
Staring at Tendulkar as he ran in, he knew his lucky break could shatter in a session. Ricky Ponting needed Hauritz, and kept throwing him the ball. Refreshed by drinks, he had Laxman playing and missing twice in a row, and Gilchrist spilled an extremely tricky leg-side chance off Tendulkar. The pair had stretched the biggest partnership of the match and India were now in front. Australia's challenge for 3-0 was slipping.
In Hauritz's next over Tendulkar tried again to hit him out of the attack, but found only a top edge to a running Michael Clarke. A shy country boy, who was so polite he didn't appeal when he dismissed Murali Kartik in the first innings, had knocked over the Master of Mumbai.
Laxman was also causing trouble. Out of form throughout the series, he was flicking his wrists and punishing Hauritz's bad ball every over. More known for his drift and flight, he was watching it spin sharply. But it was his extra loop that deceived Laxman as he scooped up a difficult caught-and-bowled chance.
A novice who had played 25 first-class games and averaged 44 before the Test had removed both danger men. When he was replaced by Clarke, who proved he can do no wrong by picking up six wickets, Hauritz had 2 for 77 off 19 overs. Clarke walked off with the innings ball, but it was his offspinning team-mate who rescued Australia in their most difficult hour. India were threatening to steam away, and Hauritz had captured Laxman and Tendulkar.
Peter English is Australasian editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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