India v Australia, 1st Test, Bangalore, 1st day October 6, 2004

Doing the balancing act

Simon Katich: made full use of his promotion to No. 3 © Getty Images

The Australians are currently weighing up their choice in the Federal election, and their top-order batsmen also looked confused as they decided between two parties' policies. Under Steve Waugh an attack-first, worry-later campaign style developed, but in India, following a change in command and a caretaker captain, patience and crease-occupation have become the buzzwords.

John Buchanan, the coach and senior campaign manager, told his players it was better to bat 130 overs in the first innings than push along at the standard 3.5 runs an over. But the idea appeared to act more as a shackle in the first two sessions, and Matthew Hayden, Damien Martyn and Darren Lehmann failed to toe the party line. At 149 for 4 Australia were again under pressure in the subcontinent.

Fortunately the new recruits Simon Katich, in his tenth match, and Michael Clarke, taking his first step into the Test cabinet, discovered a balanced remedy with a partnership that lifted the team out of danger. Replacing Ricky Ponting at No. 3, Katich knows how difficult it can be waiting for opportunities, and he grabbed his promotion with a calm display that set up a late onslaught.

In the final session Michael Clarke skipped away with youthful strokeplay that sparkled like the ear-ring below his brand new baggy green. Instead of edging to the finish Clarke raced past fifty, belting two sixes and driving with impressive force. It was instinct batting the Australian way, and when Adam Gilchrist joined him they burst towards the close.

Unlike his opening partner, Justin Langer has not forgotten how to graft, and played to the plan on a pitch that looked like the one-colour jigsaws you buy to frustrate relatives. Absorbing the early aggression of India's opening bowlers, Langer fought for his half-century and was a fine example for Katich until Irfan Pathan cannoned a wicked reverse-swinging delivery into his pads and off stump.

Despite the setbacks of the first two sessions the batsmen ultimately satisfied both parties: 316 runs at 3.51 per over and five wickets left to see off at least 40 more overs and reach Buchanan's mark. Voters can only dream of such a result in Saturday's election.

Peter English is Australasian editor of Wisden Cricinfo.