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Mark Waugh, Ponting make merry in tame draw

The game of cricket is the challenge between bat and ball

Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
The game of cricket is the challenge between bat and ball. Yes indeed. But it certainly is more than just that. At least it should be in ideal circumstances. It should be about hard fought battles out in the middle, about two teams battling hard, with no quarter given and none asked for. It sometimes is that way but the last day of the three day clash between Australia and the Board President's XI certainly wasn't one of those times. Batting through the whole day, Australia amassed 461/7, a lead of 691, with Mark Waugh (164) and Ricky Ponting (102) leading the way. The result of the match - a tame draw - was a foregone conclusion.
Narendra Hirwani, dropped from the Indian squad for the second Test match bagged a five wicket haul, increasing the irony in the last day's play. The Madhya Pradesh leggie returned figures of 5/168, reminding the selectors that they might have been a bit hasty in dropping him.
The decision to continue batting bore little significance as the Australians were clearly not going for a win. Nothing wrong with that approach, given that it would have been very difficult to bowl out the Board President's XI side in three sessions on this wicket. Even with the attack the Australians had at their disposal, they would be toiling in vain.
Michael Slater (26) and Justin Langer (15) fell early in the day. But that was the only real moral victory for the Board President's XI side. Mark Waugh was in ominous form, playing all around the wicket. The elegant New South Welshman had plenty of time to stroke the ball when the mediumpacers were on and moved into top gear against the spinners.
Sourav Ganguly gave the strongest possible indication that Sarandeep Singh is a certainty to play in the second Test between India and Australia at Kolkata. The Punjab offspinner was not given a single over on the final day. Instead, Hirwani was asked to bowl a marathon spell, operating almost non-stop from one end. While this helped Hirwani take his innings tally to five, it also meant that Mark Waugh got a good look at the leg spinner. Half a look is enough for a good batsman; for a class act like Waugh the time spent in the middle meant that he could go after the legspinner as if he was playing a club game.
The Ponting-Waugh partnership for the fifth wicket ended on 113. Of that partnership, Ponting contributed just 37. Such was the dominance of Waugh. With spinners operating from both ends, Waugh had plenty of opportunity to use his feet. Coming down the wicket at will to left arm spinner Sridharan Sriram and Hirwani, Waugh got to the pitch of the ball with ease. Once he was to the pitch of the ball, the elegant New South Wales, Essex and Australia batsman had too many options. When he felt like it Waugh went over mid on. If that didn't catch his fancy he sent the ball sailing high, wide and handsome, back over the bowler's head.
The dream was not to last all day. Waugh chopped hard at a Rakesh Patel outswinger and presented Dahiya with a low catch. Waugh's 164 (181 balls, 17 fours, 7 sixes) was easily the highlight of the day. However, one cannot ignore the fact that Ponting managed to chalk up his second century of the game. Ponting settled in well, drove hard through the off side on more than one occasion, and played square of the wicket with consummate ease. Adding to his first innings 102, Ponting helped himself to another century, 102 not out this time, off 113 balls with eleven hits to the fence. Although a century is always special, the circumstances in which this one was scored must take some gloss off the effort.
At the end of the day, the Australians had a good practice session. Ganguly, opting to play this game purely for match practice, was allowed as little of the same by the Australians. Once more, it was the ruthless efficiency of Steve Waugh and his men to the fore.

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