For a guy nicknamed "Crazy" it was an appropriate first-Test performance for Jason Krejza. Through 28 overs almost everything that could happen to a bowler did.
Krejza was hit for 11 in his first over, including a six, on the way to picking up three of the game's most celebrated batsmen. He also had Sachin Tendulkar dropped twice, missed a tough run-out, was hit on the leg when a throw ricocheted from the stumps and watched the ball bobble over most parts of Nagpur's new stadium.
In all the debate over Australia's selection - before and since the toss - the least contentious choice was Krejza, the 25-year-old offspinner from New South Wales via Tasmania. An unlikely pick for the tour - Beau Casson, who played in the West Indies, must wonder if he has been shifted to another realm - Krejza had to play in this match.
Australia needed to see what he could do and whether he was a player who showed the potential to succeed in the Test arena or one who might head the same way as Nathan Hauritz, who entered at the same point in the series in India four years ago. Krejza performed like someone who has a first-class average of 50.09, which is what he had achieved in 24 first-class games. The three victims he captured for 138 runs resulted in a slight downward adjustment and his mean is now the more comfortable side of a half-century.
Some guys get lucky. Stuart MacGill, Australia's second-best contemporary spinner, never played a Test in India. Krejza, Hauritz, Cameron White, Gavin Robertson and Peter McIntyre have. The country's slow-bowling stocks are so low after the retirements of Warne, MacGill and Brad Hogg that three have been tried in five months, giving the effect of cheapening the promotion.
Krejza accepted his baggy green from Ricky Ponting before play and retained the faith of his captain through a horrible opening in which he conceded 32 runs in three overs. Virender Sehwag welcomed Krejza by hitting him over his head for four and then long-on for six in his first over. Not even White, who considers himself a batsman who bowls, has had to deal with that on this trip. It was frightening to watch, and Krejza did well to avoid shaking uncontrollably with a mixture of nerves and terror.
He ignored the perfectly understandable tactic of spearing the ball into leg stump and kept giving it air. Krejza, who looks tough and uncompromising, also showed he was brave. When he delivered his first ball to Rahul Dravid it rushed the batsman, hit the glove and went to Simon Katich at short leg. Krejza exploded in excitement.
Shortly before lunch Sehwag, who did not think much of his opponent, lapsed terminally by creating space to cut and got an under-edge, earning Krejza a second victim. In 5.3 overs he had two wickets for 43 runs. What a ride. The speed slowed a little for the rest of the innings and he finished the day with a run-rate of 4.92.
Ponting allowed Krejza a spell of 15 overs either side of lunch that cost almost a run a ball, before he called on White, who bowled five overs for nine. With Australia's over-rate as far behind as the team already is in the match, Krejza and White worked in tandem in the final session.
|Without the two early wickets, it would have been a baptism that ended in a drowning for Krejza. If the pitch transforms into a spin haven he will have a role to play, but must be wary of success. Hauritz looked decent in taking five wickets in friendly conditions in Mumbai in 2004 and has not been considered for Australia since. Picking novice spinners in India can be cruel|
On a day when Shane Watson and Johnson were the only others bowlers to break through, the price of the wickets did not seem overly expensive. White was fortunate to be playing, a decision which grew worse as India's openers sprinted to 98 and Stuart Clark, the squad's most economical operator, ran the drinks.
Bowling to Tendulkar, Laxman, Sehwag and Co can't be much fun for anyone, especially a debutant. Krejza kept trotting in, trying to rip the ball into the already growing footmarks and hoping for openings. Sometimes the batsmen let him land in the rough, but mostly they waited to work him through cover or midwicket, gully or fine leg, or straight down the ground. And when he dropped short, as they knew he would, they cut and pulled. It was hard to think of an area where they did not score off him.
Without the two early wickets, it would have been a baptism that ended in a drowning for Krejza. If the pitch transforms into a spin haven he will have a role to play, but must be wary of success. Hauritz looked decent in taking five wickets in friendly conditions in Mumbai in 2004 and has not been considered for Australia since. Picking novice spinners in India can be cruel.