India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 1st day October 1, 2010

India overcome early struggles, again

ESPNcricinfo staff
Not for the first time at home, India recovered from a slow start to the opening day of a series to liven up the Test
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Many Indians are familiar with the benefits of the Surya Namaskar, but anyone who's watched the cricket team could tell you that they're not really morning folk, especially not on the first day of a series. Comatose starts are the norm rather than the exception and the first day in Mohali was no different.

After Zaheer Khan had struck early, Ishant Sharma's lack of control was compounded by chronic no-ball problems. By the time he went off with a jarred knee, he had conceded 41 from his last 4.4 overs and Australia were cruising. Zaheer, too, lacked zip and it was left to Pragyan Ojha to keep India afloat as Australia went past 100 runs in the session.

But on Indian pitches where the ball goes soft in no time, the home team has a reputation for clawing back from hopeless situations. Australia have been at the receiving end enough times to know that. The famous Eden Gardens Test is remembered primarily for the 376-run partnership, but on the opening afternoon, Australia went from 193 for 1 to 291 for 8 in 36.3 overs.

Three years later, in Chennai, Anil Kumble took 7 for 48 as a formidable 136 for 0 after 33 overs disintegrated into 235 all out (71.3 overs). And as recently as this February, South Africa felt the full force of the Indian afternoon riposte, losing 8 for 48 after being 218 for 1.

You'd love to be a fly on the wall in the Indian dressing room at lunch on such days, but according to Ojha, who went through 31 overs on the first day, there were no reprimands or any special instructions at the interval. "We were going to bowl according to our plans, and not give them any extra runs," he said.

From 154 for 1 in 41.3 overs, Australia managed just 70 runs in the remaining 48.3, a scoring-rate you tend to associate with the darkest days of Test cricket in the 1950's and '60s. And for once, it wasn't a remarkable spell of spin bowling or reverse-swing that got India back into the game. It was something that the side is scarcely renowned for.

It's far too early to say what kind of Test batsman Suresh Raina will be. But what his inclusion in the XI has done is inject some youthful verve and athleticism to an inner ring that isn't famed for stopping quick singles. There was a moment of hesitation from Ricky Ponting's side as Shane Watson set off for the single, but it's safe to say that Australia's captain would have made his ground if it had been any of the other nine outfielders swooping down on the ball.

In Watson's mind, that was clearly the day's turning point. "It was mainly the way the Indians bowled after the unfortunate run-out of Ricky," he said. "Their fielding lifted, and they bowled a lot better too. Early on in the first session, we were able to rotate strike fairly easily, and score fairly easily as well. As soon as Ricky got run out, they really stepped up.

"It was really difficult to score. The spinners especially bowled very well. The ball goes a bit soft as well, so it's hard to really pierce the field at times. The last couple of wickets were disappointing. It's very hard to start against the reverse-swinging ball, and Zaheer is very skilled in these conditions."

As steadily and well as Ojha bowled, it was Zaheer's spell after tea that was the difference between an average day and a good one for India. "Right now, if Ishant was there, it would have been great," said Ojha, when asked about the lack of a second pace bowler once the ball started to reverse. "We don't want to look at the negatives. The other three bowlers have done brilliantly, and we also expect Ishant to come back. Zak was amazing. He did the job."

Had Australia put many more runs on the board, India would have had far more reason to regret the dropped catches that helped Watson on his way to a second Test hundred. As it was, Ojha said the team was pretty happy with the day's work. "The way we came back the last few overs was great," he said. "Getting those three or four wickets has put them under pressure."

And while Watson suggested that going wicketless would give Ojha something to ponder before day two, the man himself reckoned that he had done what was expected of him. "My role was very clear," he said. "I was trying to attack them. I had attacking fields set and was bowling at the stumps. I was trying to make them take a chance. I'm very satisfied. They haven't taken any chances against me."

Two years ago, India scored 469 in the first innings and won by a whopping 320 runs. Watson suggested that this pitch was much slower and lower, and a score in excess of 350 could still be very competitive. "It looks like it will turn after a couple of days." said Ojha. "If we stick to our line and length, we'll extract something from it. It's going to be a bit slow."

Slowness was the name of the game on the first afternoon, but the action was anything but boring. With Watson still there, Australia can dream of a big total. As for India, the question is whether to stick to the old ball or try and engineer a twist with the new one. Unfortunately for them, they might only have Zaheer to use it.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • FIPL on October 2, 2010, 9:44 GMT

    @ hindh88 : Pakistan has always challenged every time in the world with their bowling attack, it is just their fielding (drop catches) & batting who let them down AND watch Aussie doing ings defeat to ind

  • on October 2, 2010, 8:21 GMT

    Where is RP Singh...........

  • Analytical_Sathya on October 2, 2010, 6:38 GMT

    I think Munaf Patel should have been the bowling partner of Zaheer khan. These 2 are way ahead of any other fast bowlers in the country. I would rate Munaf higher because of his skill ,ability and magnificent control which is mainly due to his athleticism. He is extremely under utilised and under rated and unjustifiably ignored over very ordinary players like Sreeshanth/Ishanth..etc

  • Meety on October 2, 2010, 5:51 GMT

    Also - I think India very negative with the 2nd new ball (or lack of it!). In saying that - meybe Oz will consider that too?

  • Meety on October 2, 2010, 5:49 GMT

    Its not very often Oz can't make 300 let alone 250 in a days play. I know these are India's home conditions but maybe the pitch is not easy to score on and any score over 300 will win the match?????

  • Hindh on October 2, 2010, 5:42 GMT

    @sabee Pak had a good bowling attack but never challenged aus for the last 15 years.

  • natmastak_so-called on October 2, 2010, 5:20 GMT

    @sabee ........'ind never had strong bowling,coz they dont eat meat which makes bones stronger.' where were u mate ? I am enlightened.THHANKKS. Had a great laugh which is must in this stressful life.thanks for ur service to mankind.keep on coming.

  • cric_lover143 on October 2, 2010, 3:36 GMT

    it is very hard to understand why these selectors still persist with Ishant... Agree that he had some good old days... but that doesnt make him a First choice... Sreeshanth was a better option from the current squad.. we all know that on his day he can be as lethal as any bowler in the world ( even though we rarely see it )... We all are complaining about the fact that India is lacking good fast bowlers... we do have some good talents like Unadkat ( Wasim Akram will agree ), Kamran Khan ( Shane Warne will agree ), Mithun ( proved already ), Praveen Kumar ( should be considered ).. We have to polish these talents and atleast give them chance once in a while.

  • gannyboy on October 2, 2010, 1:55 GMT

    I really hope Ishant does not come out to bowl because that's the only way we can get Sachin to bowl his seam ups. Sachin has always under utilised the bowler in him.Sachin is bowler with great variety.

  • sabee66 on October 2, 2010, 1:49 GMT

    Indians never had a good bowling attack coz they dont eat meat which makes the bones stronger.... their team always looks big in the papers, big names but , very disputed number one in the world... Aussies are the real champ of this game , Undisputed champs of the world love them Wato alone is enough..and young new bowlers will destroy indian batting line easily

  • FIPL on October 2, 2010, 9:44 GMT

    @ hindh88 : Pakistan has always challenged every time in the world with their bowling attack, it is just their fielding (drop catches) & batting who let them down AND watch Aussie doing ings defeat to ind

  • on October 2, 2010, 8:21 GMT

    Where is RP Singh...........

  • Analytical_Sathya on October 2, 2010, 6:38 GMT

    I think Munaf Patel should have been the bowling partner of Zaheer khan. These 2 are way ahead of any other fast bowlers in the country. I would rate Munaf higher because of his skill ,ability and magnificent control which is mainly due to his athleticism. He is extremely under utilised and under rated and unjustifiably ignored over very ordinary players like Sreeshanth/Ishanth..etc

  • Meety on October 2, 2010, 5:51 GMT

    Also - I think India very negative with the 2nd new ball (or lack of it!). In saying that - meybe Oz will consider that too?

  • Meety on October 2, 2010, 5:49 GMT

    Its not very often Oz can't make 300 let alone 250 in a days play. I know these are India's home conditions but maybe the pitch is not easy to score on and any score over 300 will win the match?????

  • Hindh on October 2, 2010, 5:42 GMT

    @sabee Pak had a good bowling attack but never challenged aus for the last 15 years.

  • natmastak_so-called on October 2, 2010, 5:20 GMT

    @sabee ........'ind never had strong bowling,coz they dont eat meat which makes bones stronger.' where were u mate ? I am enlightened.THHANKKS. Had a great laugh which is must in this stressful life.thanks for ur service to mankind.keep on coming.

  • cric_lover143 on October 2, 2010, 3:36 GMT

    it is very hard to understand why these selectors still persist with Ishant... Agree that he had some good old days... but that doesnt make him a First choice... Sreeshanth was a better option from the current squad.. we all know that on his day he can be as lethal as any bowler in the world ( even though we rarely see it )... We all are complaining about the fact that India is lacking good fast bowlers... we do have some good talents like Unadkat ( Wasim Akram will agree ), Kamran Khan ( Shane Warne will agree ), Mithun ( proved already ), Praveen Kumar ( should be considered ).. We have to polish these talents and atleast give them chance once in a while.

  • gannyboy on October 2, 2010, 1:55 GMT

    I really hope Ishant does not come out to bowl because that's the only way we can get Sachin to bowl his seam ups. Sachin has always under utilised the bowler in him.Sachin is bowler with great variety.

  • sabee66 on October 2, 2010, 1:49 GMT

    Indians never had a good bowling attack coz they dont eat meat which makes the bones stronger.... their team always looks big in the papers, big names but , very disputed number one in the world... Aussies are the real champ of this game , Undisputed champs of the world love them Wato alone is enough..and young new bowlers will destroy indian batting line easily

  • La_Bangla on October 2, 2010, 0:16 GMT

    Saint Watson defending Saint Ponting "everyone really knows how Ricky is, he is not going to go looking for a fight unless someone steps out of the line, out of the huddle, and has a bit to say. It was there for all to see."

  • on October 1, 2010, 21:37 GMT

    its worthless to say the day was boring coz the pitch was made for the same.....its hard to understand u build a weak house and when its blown away by the wind, u complain of the wind.......Lots of credit to Watson coz it was an outstanding innings in those circumstances...cant understand the selection of ishant again...its easy to be an indian bowler....u jus need to take a five for once and u r there for the next 50 matches...are indians so scared to ask ishant to go back to domestic cricket and force his way into the team through some performance...ridiculous to see him still in the team after seeing him going flat again and again.......

  • KSalik on October 1, 2010, 21:20 GMT

    Its a supporting wicket. With the way watson playing another 100 to 150 runs for aussies and the game is on. Dhoni dropped watson and watson made that count. i think india still chasing the match after that big partneship between ponting and watson

  • nomikshah on October 1, 2010, 20:53 GMT

    Absolutely loving it. mighty like ponting being brought down by minnows like zaheer khan. This is what money can do and Indians are reaping the rewards..will the oz ever learn???? No one can win a spat against the indians now...yipppeee

  • klobania on October 1, 2010, 20:02 GMT

    i think the way india fielded n they r already short of one bowler (ishant is injured though a blessing in disguise) n the way watson is playing i believe aussies will easily past 400 runs mark because pple here are underestimating tim pane's batting abilities i m damn sure he is also gonna score a ton here

  • thenkabail on October 1, 2010, 19:45 GMT

    GET WICKETS OJAH!!!!: There is no point bowling maiden overs after overs.....get wickets, Mr. Ojaha. It is thanks to Zhaheer Khan, we are where we are. Harbhajan lacks confidence these days and maybe better dropped. Sreeshant was badly missing. He is someone with huge talent and right aggression.........unfortunately his attitude is extremely frustrating. Maybe it is time to get Jaidev Unadkat. The 4 bowlers India must have are: Zaheer, Sreeshanth\unadkat\Praveen kumar (2 of 3), and a spinner (Ojaha\Harbhajan\Chawla.......but India desperately needs someone like Kumble fast). Also a true allrounder like Kapil is badly missing (Abhishek Nayar is good in batting, but bowling is average).....#6 should be a llrounder like Kapil (but in a nation of billion plus, we are desperate for a allrounder)......can someone raise their hand?

  • on October 1, 2010, 19:01 GMT

    ishant looks out of sortts....sree deserved a chance aftr his performance in the prev practice game....even mithun shud hav bn rewarded....glaring blunders in team selection....and sad part is mithun can even bat!!

  • on October 1, 2010, 18:45 GMT

    india are just rescued from day one. they done a great job and today earlier india were in touble but zahir came on last seasson of the day and he able to picked up couple of wickets.I think it was a better idea to operate spin attack regulaly though they was not able to get wickets but they controlled more runs.let's see what will happen tommorrow.........

  • maddy20 on October 1, 2010, 18:21 GMT

    I meant Sreesanth in my previous comment. Regardless of that this is horrendous team selection!

  • SrikanthReddi on October 1, 2010, 17:42 GMT

    Nobody knows if Zaheer did really say something bad to him... Ponting came back showing his bat... nobody is saint there.. have a chill pill...

  • on October 1, 2010, 17:42 GMT

    India is not producing a solid fast swing bowler since a long time.I don't know what India would have done without ZAK. Its true that 80%-90% share of getting India to Rank 1 would go to Sehwag.Both of these are highly consistent and if we call them our most important players, then even that would be an understatement. Please India give us some fast bowlers like Srinath, Zaheer, Irfan who could, in future replace Zaheer. Please God give Irfan his swing back so that he can come back in the team.

  • karthikfromchennai on October 1, 2010, 17:41 GMT

    Even Ponting wont mind sledging....would a beggar be shamed of begging?

  • MasterClass on October 1, 2010, 17:37 GMT

    Talking about the snail-paced scoring, one of the commentators (Tom Moody?) mentioned that Aus players should have taken chances to step-out and hit spinners rather them let them dominate. Well, only problem with that is if they did step-out they would be stumped, because no one except Clarke can play spin or caught. They are too flat footed and slow to step-out consistently and hit the spinners. Hopefully India can restrict them to 300, and try get a 100-150 lead. That will put tremendous pressure on Aus, and with the wicket turning I doubt they can survive. Zaheer is key on 2nd day morning. Hopefully he can replicate his magical spell to Aus, like last time in Mohali on 5th day morning.

  • on October 1, 2010, 17:37 GMT

    The strike bowlers are the glory boys. But in the five day grind that is Test Cricket, the beasts of burden are the stock bowlers, especially on the slow-low Subcontinental pitches. Bowling over after over, giving as little away as possible, taking the brunt of the hot sun while the striker bides his time in the shadows may not seem very glamorous but it is essential. And it was this essential role that Pragyan Ojha performed to perfection on the first day of the Mohali Test, giving a rested Zaheer the requisite pressure situation to exploit. With both Harbhajan and Ishant being off colour in the morning- as well as large parts of the afternoon session (no Ishant) Australia could have run away to a 250/2 start but for the miserly leftie. To me Watson, Ojha and Zaheer are the players of the day with honourable mentions for Ponting and Raina. I think this spell of Ojha's will have a lot of bearing on the final outcome of this Test.

  • asadkum on October 1, 2010, 17:21 GMT

    Mohammad Asad from USA.......

    Zaheer has done really well....Spinners also !!! Overall bowling dept. was good on day 1......Sreesanth should have been given a chance. IND has excellent batting line up to win this match if they could restrict AUS something around 325 ... .

  • cricbee on October 1, 2010, 17:13 GMT

    This is a nice start by both the teams. The 2nd day might be crucial for planning for both teams. By the way, Though I am an Indian I didn't like Zaheer unnecessarly provoking Ponting. When it comes to play, Ponting is a kind of player every team wants. Zaheer is a player every team had.

  • on October 1, 2010, 16:58 GMT

    Ishant was choosen coz of his ability to swing in for right handers, then what was wrong with Mithun, whose strength is big inswingers for right handed batsmen. He can bowl that delivery very constantly. Dhoni gives the guys full chance to prove themselves but i don't know when enough is enough for guys like Ishant, Dinesh Kartik, Rohit Sharma and now even bhajji...Lets talk about bhajji. He still may not have the worst average in past 1 or 2 yrs but I am not seeing him "troubling" the batsmen anymore

  • popcorn on October 1, 2010, 16:57 GMT

    It was disgusting how Zaheer Khan was sledging Ricky Ponting. Worse till,his captain,Dhoni,l was on standby mode, impotent.

  • the_dev on October 1, 2010, 16:55 GMT

    the first day made clear that match going to be interesting...must appreciate the indian team for great comeback... the turning point was ponting's run out by raina.. if dropped catches would have been held score would have become much better for india

  • maddy20 on October 1, 2010, 16:54 GMT

    If only Dhoni picked Ishant or Praveen Kumar, the Aussie innings would have been over today or by tomorrow morning at most! Why does Dhoni love Ishant and Ravindra Jadeja so much? :O

  • ram5160 on October 1, 2010, 16:52 GMT

    I fell asleep watching the highlights. Most boring day of cricket ever played by australia. Watson was in and should have made more use of that.

  • on October 1, 2010, 16:45 GMT

    Good work done by the bowlers and i want zaheer to use the old ball for some more overs before taking the new ball.

  • Dhanno on October 1, 2010, 16:28 GMT

    The great cricinfo experts selected Dhoni to be indian all time WK. he is pathetic behind stumps to people like Ojha and Bhajji. How would have he coped with someone from the spin quartet. Plus if you check, his records as test batsmen outside india are pathetic, avg around 30. Well thats besides point since its not his catching but his atrocious captaincy which will lead to Aussie score of 350 tomorrow. If we get Paine out, this great captain of India will spread out field to watson, only try to attack (which like semi attack, 1 slip and stuff) the aussie tail. We all know with Hauritz and Johnson the tail wags a lot. But after repeated failures of dhoni's policy of letting the noose loose once the opponents are at 228/6 kind of situation (only tail to wrap up) he has not learned a lessson. Someone tell this great wicket keeper and according to some an amazing captain, giving it easy to Watson and trying to attack the tailenders is gonna lead to 350-375 total.

  • inswing on October 1, 2010, 16:24 GMT

    Ishan't no-ball problems made him lose the rhythm and control. This is really not acceptable at the highest level. You cannot play a test with three bowlers. Ishant is a good bowler but needs professional coaching to avoid elementary problems. This one is on the coach.

  • on October 1, 2010, 15:46 GMT

    I DONT KNOW WAT WL B IN STORE 4 TOM,BUT ZAK ,SEHWAG WILL B THE MAIN PLAYER 4 INDIA TO WIN THE MATCH, INDIA SHOULD CLOSE OZ UNDER 300 N THEN PILE UP A SCORE IN EXCESS OF 500 WHICH WL THEM TO GET A SMALL TARGET TO GET EVEN IF AUSSIES PLAY WELL BT THAT WONT B EASY, ONE WOULD EXPECT SEHWAG TO FIRE UP TOM AFTERNOON WHICH IS THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO BUT IF OZ GETS A SCORE EXCESS OF 400 IT WOULD B HARD 4 INDIA TO WIN THIS ONE

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on October 1, 2010, 15:44 GMT

    Well its no surprise that Zaheer Khan is the center of Ind's bowling attack,he was fantastic. I wonder how long guys like Ishant and Sreesanth will continue to be passengers? Raina apart, the Ind fielding was even more laughable than usual and hopefully Raina's inclusion will FORCE the others to lift their game. If evry1 is mediocre, no-1 will feel to bad but all it takes is 1 person who is better than the others. I thought Ponting and Watson were outstanding. Really unfortunate that Ponting was run out, he was very good to watch and whether or not u support him, it is hard not to gasp at his pull shots lol.

  • on October 1, 2010, 15:26 GMT

    Not sure why Dhoni likes Ishant some much in-spite of his lacklustre and spineless performances in the past. I thought Sreesanth should have been given a chance, agreed that he is erratic , but has the ability to swing the ball either ways and will be very effective in wickets which have no bounce. Haven't seen anything special from Ishant is pathetic even in the domestic circuit, not sure why he gets chance after chance while others are neglected. Even Irfan is better as he can be used as a batsmen. Kudos to Dhoni and his team selection.

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  • on October 1, 2010, 15:26 GMT

    Not sure why Dhoni likes Ishant some much in-spite of his lacklustre and spineless performances in the past. I thought Sreesanth should have been given a chance, agreed that he is erratic , but has the ability to swing the ball either ways and will be very effective in wickets which have no bounce. Haven't seen anything special from Ishant is pathetic even in the domestic circuit, not sure why he gets chance after chance while others are neglected. Even Irfan is better as he can be used as a batsmen. Kudos to Dhoni and his team selection.

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on October 1, 2010, 15:44 GMT

    Well its no surprise that Zaheer Khan is the center of Ind's bowling attack,he was fantastic. I wonder how long guys like Ishant and Sreesanth will continue to be passengers? Raina apart, the Ind fielding was even more laughable than usual and hopefully Raina's inclusion will FORCE the others to lift their game. If evry1 is mediocre, no-1 will feel to bad but all it takes is 1 person who is better than the others. I thought Ponting and Watson were outstanding. Really unfortunate that Ponting was run out, he was very good to watch and whether or not u support him, it is hard not to gasp at his pull shots lol.

  • on October 1, 2010, 15:46 GMT

    I DONT KNOW WAT WL B IN STORE 4 TOM,BUT ZAK ,SEHWAG WILL B THE MAIN PLAYER 4 INDIA TO WIN THE MATCH, INDIA SHOULD CLOSE OZ UNDER 300 N THEN PILE UP A SCORE IN EXCESS OF 500 WHICH WL THEM TO GET A SMALL TARGET TO GET EVEN IF AUSSIES PLAY WELL BT THAT WONT B EASY, ONE WOULD EXPECT SEHWAG TO FIRE UP TOM AFTERNOON WHICH IS THE MOST LIKELY SCENARIO BUT IF OZ GETS A SCORE EXCESS OF 400 IT WOULD B HARD 4 INDIA TO WIN THIS ONE

  • inswing on October 1, 2010, 16:24 GMT

    Ishan't no-ball problems made him lose the rhythm and control. This is really not acceptable at the highest level. You cannot play a test with three bowlers. Ishant is a good bowler but needs professional coaching to avoid elementary problems. This one is on the coach.

  • Dhanno on October 1, 2010, 16:28 GMT

    The great cricinfo experts selected Dhoni to be indian all time WK. he is pathetic behind stumps to people like Ojha and Bhajji. How would have he coped with someone from the spin quartet. Plus if you check, his records as test batsmen outside india are pathetic, avg around 30. Well thats besides point since its not his catching but his atrocious captaincy which will lead to Aussie score of 350 tomorrow. If we get Paine out, this great captain of India will spread out field to watson, only try to attack (which like semi attack, 1 slip and stuff) the aussie tail. We all know with Hauritz and Johnson the tail wags a lot. But after repeated failures of dhoni's policy of letting the noose loose once the opponents are at 228/6 kind of situation (only tail to wrap up) he has not learned a lessson. Someone tell this great wicket keeper and according to some an amazing captain, giving it easy to Watson and trying to attack the tailenders is gonna lead to 350-375 total.

  • on October 1, 2010, 16:45 GMT

    Good work done by the bowlers and i want zaheer to use the old ball for some more overs before taking the new ball.

  • ram5160 on October 1, 2010, 16:52 GMT

    I fell asleep watching the highlights. Most boring day of cricket ever played by australia. Watson was in and should have made more use of that.

  • maddy20 on October 1, 2010, 16:54 GMT

    If only Dhoni picked Ishant or Praveen Kumar, the Aussie innings would have been over today or by tomorrow morning at most! Why does Dhoni love Ishant and Ravindra Jadeja so much? :O

  • the_dev on October 1, 2010, 16:55 GMT

    the first day made clear that match going to be interesting...must appreciate the indian team for great comeback... the turning point was ponting's run out by raina.. if dropped catches would have been held score would have become much better for india

  • popcorn on October 1, 2010, 16:57 GMT

    It was disgusting how Zaheer Khan was sledging Ricky Ponting. Worse till,his captain,Dhoni,l was on standby mode, impotent.