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October 7, 2004
It was always destined to be a day of Aussie runs - why else would the start of play have been delayed by the appearance of a green-and-gold banner behind the bowler's arm, bearing the urgent request: "Mum, send Imodium!"? But the warning came too late for Michael Clarke and Adam Gilchrist. Their rollicking 167-run partnership came at such a rate this morning that there was never any prospect of reaching the dunny in time.
Runs, and lots of them, are what Indian crowds appreciate the most. But when Australia resumed at 316 for 5 this morning, the stands began to swell with the optimistic assumption that Australia had had their fill - or most of it, at any rate. So it was with some simmering disappointment that they were made to wait until the stroke of lunch for their first breakthrough.
Even the scoreboard operator seemed to be feeling the strain, as he acknowledged Gilchrist's half-century by flashing up the message: "Congratulations, Haidee Tiffen - 50 not out". Tiffen, for the record, is a New Zealand women's allrounder, who made 56 on her last (and first) appearance at Bangalore in December 2003. Who knows which of the city's copious databases they dredged that particular graphic from.
It was all getting too much for the besieged national TV network as well. They were awarded the rights to this series as a last-ditch measure, following the breakdown in communications between the BCCI and its primary suitors, and the cobbled-togetherness of it all meant that there were bound to be a couple of wobbles along the way.
Mike Atherton, primarily out here as a newspaper correspondent, was press-ganged into service as a commentator, while the producer only arrived midway through the first day, after being airlifted from a family holiday in Turkey. The upshot was that India's armchair fans spent much of the morning watching a re-run of Kenya's 1996 World Cup victory over West Indies, among other such gems. Mind you, after being subjected to the vacuous soap-star-turned-anchorwoman, Mandira Bedi, during Sony's coverage of the Champions Trophy, the Indian public are well used to such irrelevances.
What they missed during that hiatus was the continuation of an innings of utter serenity from Clarke. His personal fan club, those Imodium-seekers above the sightscreen, had been so convinced that he would reach three figures that they had come armed with a second banner reading "On ya Clarkey, 100 on debut". It required a bit of black tape and a hasty scramble for the scissors, however, to adjust the banner in time for his 150.
Clarke's eventual demise geed the home support up no end, as they suddenly awoke to the prospect of witnessing their own batsmen in action. The Mexican Wave, more commonly associated with boredom and frustration, now carried the resonance of an expectant volcano, as an urgent drum-beat echoed across from the bleachers at midwicket.
Not for the first time in the day, however, it was the travelling band of 200 or so Aussies who had all the more to crow about. A pair of exceptional deliveries from Glenn McGrath, including the ball of the match to dislodge Rahul Dravid, and those little splodges of yellow began to vibrate in adulation once again. But the counter-roar was massive and defiant, as the home support responded with ecstasy to every push for two into the covers.
Special mention, however, must go to the lone Indian voice that rang out above all others, all throughout the day, as he sung merrily to himself in a disturbing falsetto, utterly oblivious to the concerned looks from his neighbours (not to mention the men in white coats hovering at the entrance to the stand). Among his favourite numbers were "Kaspa has only got one ball", "Mr Laxman, do it for me", and "Knick-knack paddy-whack, these Aus-sies are going home."
With such a devoted support behind them, and an even bigger crowd expected as the weekend approaches, there can be no giving up of the ghost just yet. Not when there's a follow-on looming and a Mr Laxman in the side, at any rate.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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