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February 22, 2013
As he walked out to bat in his first Test innings, Moises Henriques felt like his legs were made of jelly. The first-afternoon pitch looked like something that had been played on for a full five days already. R Ashwin was spinning Australia into a trance. Wickets were falling much too quickly for their liking. Plenty of fans and pundits back home had questioned the selection of Henriques, not that he was thinking about that as he walked out. Still, by the end of his innings of 68, he had silenced a few critics.
In the post-war era, only three other Australians had scored as many as Henriques on debut from No.7 or lower. Two of those men, Greg Chappell and Adam Gilchrist, went on to become legendary figures in Australian cricket. The other, Greg Matthews, had a more than handy career over the course of a decade. Of course it is much too early to judge what sort of Test player Henriques will become, but he has made a fine start. If he can add a few wickets he will be hard to budge for the rest of this tour at least.
Throughout his innings he batted with the captain Michael Clarke, who must have been impressed by the patience displayed by Henriques during his 132-ball innings and their 151-run partnership. Clarke, who in the lead-up to the match said batsmen who made a start in this series could not afford to throw it away, will be pleased with the way Henriques admonished himself after falling lbw to a sweep.
"I certainly think I had the opportunity to make it my best innings [in all cricket] but it was a little bit disappointing, I really wanted to get through the day and make sure we finished five wickets down," Henriques said. "I could have been a little bit more ruthless at the end. But if someone said you're going to have 60-odd on debut I'd take it."
He didn't try to copy Clarke's nimble-footed approach against the spinners but he benefited from his captain's ability to throw Ashwin and his colleagues off their rhythm. Henriques said Ashwin had been a handful but he believed the pitch would also offer some assistance for Australia's fast men, given that Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar both found some reverse swing as the day wore on.
"He [Ashwin] is a little bit taller and puts some really good work on the ball, the ball is fizzing and can bounce or not bounce, or spin or not spin," Henriques said. "But the other [spinners] are still really disciplined. It wasn't their day today but guys like Harbhajan have taken 400 Test wickets and come day three or four when the wicket is really starting to play some tricks, they're certainly going to come to the game.
"[There was] not much seam movement or anything like that but both their quicks were getting it to reverse and I think with our quicks they'll probably penetrate the wicket a little bit more than what those guys did. Hopefully with guys like Jimmy [Pattinson] and Peter [Siddle] and Mitch [Starc] with a little bit more airspeed, there [will be] reverse swing. The key with reverse swing is to try to bowl to new batsmen with it and be smart with your fields."
Henriques batted on a surface that threw up clouds of dust whenever the players kicked away a stone, and it will only become much more difficult to bat on as the match progresses. Australia reached 316 for 7 at stumps and if Clarke and the tail-enders can push the total up towards 400 on the second day, India might have their work cut out for them.
"The footmarks and the loose ground out there is something like a three-day wicket," Henriques said. "Even back home in Australia you wouldn't see that on day three or four. To have that loose soil out there, come days four and five the ball's going to start playing some tricks."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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