India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai, 1st day February 22, 2013

Clarke helps Australia edge spin test


Australia 316 for 7 (Clarke 103*, Henriques 68, Ashwin 6-88) v India
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Not a single observer on the opening day of India's series against Australia was surprised by the sight of Michael Clarke conjuring his side's spinal innings. And not one of them would have been game to predict that Clarke's partner for a rousing stand of 151, after some major early stutters on a parched pitch, would be the debutant Moises Henriques.

Arriving at the wicket soon after lunch, his team floundering at 153 for 5, Henriques showed enormous composure and exemplary technique to construct a supporting innings in the company of his captain, fulfilling the potential first evident when he starred for Australia's Under-19 World Cup team when only 16 years old a decade ago. Clarke's century, which took him past Sir Donald Bradman on the nation's list of Test aggregates, was less of a surprise but no less an achievement, his pacing and poise only briefly interrupted at a critical moment shortly before tea.

India's outstanding bowler R Ashwin appealed vehemently for a bat-pad catch, and replays showed a fat inside edge. Seldom have India cursed the lack of DRS given their opposition to its vagaries, but they were left to gnash their teeth this time. A wicket then would have opened up Australia's tail to a ball that was reverse swinging and spinning. Instead Clarke and Henriques were not separated until the final half-hour, the allrounder missing a sweep at Ashwin before Ravindra Jadeja skidded one past Mitchell Starc.

Clarke had showed rare glee at winning the toss on a surface more clay court than cricket pitch, and the visitors made a rapid start before stuttering twice. First when Ed Cowan's intemperate charge down the wicket was followed by the swift exit of a vulnerable Phillip Hughes, and again when Shane Watson, David Warner and Matthew Wade fell swiftly after lunch.

Ashwin gained spin, dip and bounce while harvesting six wickets, but the rest tended to pitch too short and gave the Australians room to manoeuvre the ball around the MA Chidambaram Stadium. Ishant Sharma and the debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar appeared peripheral members of the attack; the omitted Pragyan Ojha can feel justly aggrieved.

Cowan and Warner made a cheery start, swatting the ball around with ease against Kumar and Ishant. Warner was the scratchier of the two, having batted properly in the nets for only a few days before the match due to his rehab from a fractured thumb. Twice Ashwin beat Warner outside off stump, first drawing an edge that an incredulous Virender Sehwag contrived to spill at slip, then creating a difficult stumping chance that MS Dhoni failed to complete due to the bounce extracted.

Meanwhile Cowan looked serene, so much so that he advanced to loft Harbhajan down the ground for only the second six of his 14-Test career. If that stroke showed how good Cowan was feeling, his next aggressive measure was to smack of misplaced comfort. Trying to belt another six, he was beaten by Ashwin's greater drop and bounce, and failed to get back to his crease before Dhoni tipped the bails off. On the first morning of the series, it was hard to imagine a more wasteful exit.

Unlike Cowan, Hughes had failed to make a decent score in the warm-up, and his indecisiveness was evident in a stay that featured plenty of shuffling and ended with a horrid, half-hearted cut at Ashwin that dragged the ball onto leg stump. Watson found the middle of the bat from his first ball, and with Warner had formed the foundation of a potentially handsome union by lunch.

However the interval disrupted their rhythm, and moments after resumption Watson was pinned lbw on the crease by a quicker, straighter delivery that skidded. Warner fell in similar fashion, fooled by Ashwin's change in trajectory and struck in front on the back foot when he might have leaned forward.

Wade fought to get himself established but on 12 was too imprecise with placement of bat and pad and was ruled lbw to an offbreak that pitched on middle and straightened. After their rapid start Australia were sinking fast.

Henriques walked to the middle in this dire scenario, but showed the good sense of a maturing cricketer, and the skills of one raised on Sydney's often slow and turning pitches. He helped Clarke in manning the pumps, then setting a steady course, and was not unduly troubled despite the pitch's tendency to offer the odd ball that jumped and fizzed or scuttled through low.

Ashwin was absent for most of this phase, inconvenienced by a jammed finger. His return to the crease should have brought an instant wicket in the shadows of the tea break, as Clarke squeezed off bat and pad to short leg. But the umpire Kumar Dharmasena was deaf to the appeals. Clarke's mastery of body language was apparent, too, holding the bat up and re-marking his guard as though nothing had happened.

Aware of how the afternoon began, Clarke and Henriques did not dally after tea, jumping on India's bowlers with intent. Their attack soon had Dhoni reverting to the timid captaincy and modest field placings he has become increasingly reliant upon in recent times, and the hosts' bowling and fielding lost much of their earlier vim.

Clarke appeared handicapped by a sore right shoulder at times, but was otherwise in control. Henriques, his confidence growing by the ball, did not look like getting out until he aimed a sweep at Ashwin in the 89th over of play, Marais Erasmus handing a line-ball verdict to the hosts. Starc's swift exit provided a reminder of what may have unfolded had the tail been exposed earlier, but Clarke was still there at the close, going to his hundred with a lofted drive. With Henriques' help, he had given Australia a chance.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shanmugam on February 24, 2013, 19:20 GMT

    @Harmony111, I think you are probably thinking that I support the DRS in the current form and all the components like Hawk-Eye or HotSpot. When I say DRS, I am merely referring to reviewing the decisions to a third umpire who could very well use slo-mo replays to go with or reverse the on-field umpire's decisions. This could very well avoid howlers - obvious inside-edges for LBWs, bat nowhere near ball for caught-behinds, etc. Of course, where there is no obvious evidence to reverse the decision of the on-field umpire, the third umpire should go with the on-field decisions. I am only against fan complaining about bad decisions as if there is a conspiracy against their team or something. On-field umpires have to make decisions quickly and they are human after all. It is hard to get decisions correct all the time. If tech. could assist them, then why not? No one is saying the BCCI should accept the DRS in the current form but they could accept some form of DRS.

  • Harmon on February 23, 2013, 19:15 GMT

    @Hash_Tag: Lol, I laughed a bit when you asked me the link with this clever fella. The bottom half of your comment shows what is actually wrong with ppl here. That is just what I meant by To D or Not to D. They think in terms of using or not using DRS instead of thinking in terms of How to avoid bad umpiring decisions or better still, How to improve decision quality. If SRT gets out to a shocker, I won't ask for DRS opportunistically, I would ask for slo-mo replays and use Common Sense to make better decisions. To C or Not to C came from this. You should read what Dravid_Gravitas, a few others & I have been saying here about DRS.

  • Harmon on February 23, 2013, 17:40 GMT

    @Shan156: My point is, if we were to use slo-mo replays along with some basic common sense, we won't need DRS. Certainly not for the rank bad decisions. As for the really marginal ones, we've seen that DRS does not give any any appreciable improvement in absolute terms and it becomes even less when we see it in the background of its high costs. But like I said earlier, people are now no longer thinking about solving the problem of bad umpiring. They now have been conditioned to think in terms of using or not using DRS. This requires a mindset change. This is a diff paradigm that ought to have been used in the 1st place. Ppl attack BCCI for not using DRS and use all sort of vicious tactics but fail to give a single independent review of DRS and how reliable it is. The vendor says hotspot is 93% accurate and we accept it at face value. How would a simple slo-mo replay compare to it? If it is around 88-90% accurate I'd take it cos it comes for free.

  • Harmon on February 23, 2013, 11:56 GMT

    @Skilled90: Who is talking about using DRS components? I talked of using slo mo replays to be used for referrals. Are they a part of DRS? They have bene in place years before DRS was even thought of. And fyi, DRS is not owned by one company. There is no such ownership. The various components of DRS are owned by diff companies and we have options there to choose from diff vendors. For eg Hawk Eye vs Virtual Eye. In any case, who owns what does not matter cos no one owns slo mo replays. The production company has all the technology and rights to make use of such replays and supply ICC with the relevant help for taking decisions.

  • GAURAV on February 23, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    India has done well restricting Australia to mere 380 given they lost the toss. Most disappointed thing in this math is Kumar Dharmasena umpiring. Some of those decisions weren't required any DRS.

  • Dummy4 on February 23, 2013, 6:21 GMT

    whoever gave the best umpire award to Dharmasena should be scrapped from the panel for selecting the best. And to think of it. that he comes from S.Lanka where before the neutral umpires came along, all hits on the body of visiting batsmen where LBW's.

  • rajat on February 23, 2013, 6:03 GMT

    On paper IND have three spinners but on the field there is only one. Harbhajan's bowling was as bad as it could get. Jadeja was bowling better than him. Harbhajan has to make way for Ojha in the next game. Extremely disappointed with bhajji's bowling.

  • disco on February 23, 2013, 5:57 GMT

    To all the Indian supporter who reckon Clarke is 'dishonest' for simply allowing the umpires to do their job, how "honest" is it to appeal for LBW then when not given to appeal for a bat pad catch.

  • Dummy4 on February 23, 2013, 5:49 GMT

    why bcci alone does not accept DRS . this will lead more loss in the test matches for india

  • Dummy4 on February 23, 2013, 5:49 GMT

    "Idon't know why Dhoni is not giving Bhajji a fair chance to bowl? And still that man has been picked above Ojha it is quite surprising that clearly exposed how Dhoni is good in a longer format of the game! And as far has Sehwag approach is concerned standing on slip is too casual and I am totally in a shock to see Sunil gavaskar reading praises for him after 2 simple drops and then a catch held by him.Lets see what would be the approach of our batsman on a pitch that is showi gno assistance for pace bowlers.BY the way I would still feel India is quite favourite in this match as this is the wicket which has been produced according to their taste but still saw Ashwin criticizing it and addressing it "dirty" so my opinion to him is that why not they start preparing the pitch by his own!