February 18, 2001

Ramesh, Laxman and Miller share honours

A splendid 104 by Sadagopan Ramesh, his 195-run second wicket stand with VVS Laxman (94) and fine spin bowling by Colin Miller who bagged six wickets for 90 runs highlighted an eventful second day's play in the three day match between India A and the touring Australian cricket team at the Vidarbha Cricket Association ground in Nagpur on Sunday.

India A who were 71 for one at stumps on the opening day in reply to the Australians' first innings total of 291 were all out for 368. The innings ended 78 minutes after the tea interval and in the remaining time, the Australians scored 39 for one off eight overs.

The morning belonged to the home team and Ramesh and Laxman were all smiles as they came in to lunch on 203 for one off 49 overs. At the interval, Ramesh was on 99 and Laxman on 68. The session produced 132 runs off 31 overs with no damage in the wickets department.

Ramesh carried on from where he left off last evening. He reached his half-century in the sixth over of the morning with a pull shot off Damien Fleming. He kept a steady flow of runs from one end as Laxman settled down at the other. Ramesh was the most aggressive in the session but just missed getting his hundred by the interval.

Laxman was given his first reprieve by Mathew Hayden in the gully when he chased an outswinger from Fleming in the second over of the morning. He was lucky again at 10 when a bouncer from Gillespie went off Laxman's gloves and fell inches short off Langer at gully.

Laxman went on to get his half-century off 111 balls laced with nine boundaries. Ramesh was the dominant partner but when he reached the nineties, he seemed nervous. Laxman then took over centre stage and played some aggressive shots to ease off the pressure on Ramesh.

After lunch, however, Miller turned the tide in favour of the Australians with a five wicket haul. By the interval, he had bagged five for 76 from 27 overs to reduce India A to 299 for eight off 79 overs. The session saw a remarkable change in the proceedings as 96 runs were scored off 30 overs but at the cost of seven wickets.

Ramesh duly reached his century immediately after lunch and Laxman continued to blaze away. But then Ramesh touched a wide delivery from Gillespie and edged the ball to Gilchrist. Ramesh's 101 came off 158 balls with a score of boundaries. He and Laxman added 195 runs for the second wicket off 43.4 overs.

Soon after, Laxman missed out on his century by six runs when he drove the ball in the air, to Steve Waugh in the covers. He played 157 balls with 17 hits to the fence.

The scoreboard read 231 when the second wicket fell. One run later, Dinesh Mongia was back in the pavilion. The score did not move any further after that as three more wickets fell on the same score of 232. Dinesh Mongia, Laxman and Hemang Badani all fell in quick succession.

Balaji Rao showed signs of a fightback but could not counter the spin of Miller. He holed out to Fleming on the boundary trying to clear the fence, for six runs off 35 balls. Harbhajan Singh soon followed after scoring 12 runs off eight balls, with three hits to the fence. Rahul Sanghvi had no clue to the bowling and was trapped on the back foot by Miller for one run.

The last session of the day produced a fighting knock from the Indian stumper Nayan Mongia who played a brave innings to ensure that the India A team got the lead. He remained unbeaten on 71 off 102 balls with eight hits to the fence.

Australia took the second new ball after 81 overs. Mongia went after Damien Fleming in the 86th over, hitting him for 18 runs. He was well supported by Debasish Mohanty and the two added 75 runs for the ninth wicket off 21.3 overs. Mohanty played a patient 73-ball knock and hit three boundaries and one six for his 28 runs.

The Australian openers batted cautiously in the second innings. Even the usually explosive Slater tried to leave deliveries outside the offstump. He slashed at an outswinger from Ashish Nehra but was let off at Gully by SS Das. The other opener Mathew Hayden too had his share of good fortune when a cut off Mohanty fell inches away from the outstretched hands of Rahul Sanghvi at gully.

First change bowler Harbhajan Singh spelt doom for Slater who failed to time a pull shot, only to find Balaji Rao at midwicket. Slater scored 11 runs from 25 balls. Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer ensured that no further damage was done to the innings before close of play.