New year, old habits

Too much happened on the first day at the SCG. Close to 30,000 people got to see a fine spell of left-arm seam, a tantalising display of off spin and a counterattacking partnership straight out of a classic western flick. Six wickets fell before the clock tower showed two; all hell broke loose thereafter.

The Roads and Traffic Authority of New South Wales are doing their every bit to discourage speeding but nobody seems to have briefed the Australian lower order about speed limits. This was a notorious case of hit-and-run; a great robbery in broad daylight. Hardly had India begun to smile when Brad Hogg and Andrew Symonds, almost like a couple of gangsters, began to loot. Only once have more runs been scored on the first day at the SCG and that was nearly 100 years ago.

Like at the MCG, India's opening day was one of two halves. But unlike at the MCG, where they had a poor morning and a good afternoon, the trend was reversed. And unlike at the MCG, the umpires had a blackout. Anil Kumble might have taken 376 for 7 at the start of the day - he had lost his spearhead to injury after all - but he wouldn't be smiling at the end of it. While a set of officials spoilt a fine day, a couple of batsmen weren't going to miss out.

Symonds walks in to a loud ovation and manufactures shots that get everyone to raise the decibel levels. Until he entered there was hardly a cut shot played, but soon they were being struck with anger. And when Hogg began to cut at the other end India were made to run ragged. India must be made to take a new-year resolution: we will not leave the third-man region vacant.

A new year brings a lot of promises but some things don't change. For every talented seamer India unearths, there will be another nursing an injury; for every top order they dismiss quickly, there will be a tail waiting to spoil the good work; for every fine batsman emerging from the gullies, there will be a poor fielder letting the ball slip through. India dropped two catches - one a tough skier at mid-on, the other a simpler one that dipped towards short leg - and could have had one more chance if someone more athletic than Rahul Dravid was placed at fine leg. Yuvraj Singh, supposedly their best fielder, embarrassed himself too often.

But a couple of Singhs brought plenty of cheer. Both hadn't done too much at the MCG but came into their own here. RP, 22 years and eight Tests old, led the attack manfully before Harbhajan rediscovered his mojo. Until Hogg walked in, RP had the measure of every left-hander by getting the ball to straighten after hitting the right length. Phil Jaques misread the bounce, Matthew Hayden was squared up, Michael Hussey prodded tentatively, and Adam Gilchrist followed him. Three of them, seemingly impressed with Sachin Tendulkar sporting a floppy hat after suffering an allergic reaction, edged to first slip.

Ishant Sharma, just 19, made an early impression and could have easily had his first wicket when Symonds was on 30. A whole stadium might have heard the edge but that's not what matters. Some teams think Steve Bucknor needs a hearing-aid; India might be more intent on a hearing.

It's rumoured (wrongly) that the 555-run stand between Herbert Sutcliffe and Percy Holmes prompted a businessman to start the cigarette company. Someone here would be tempted to start Benson and Edges. Ponting edged twice but Mark Benson heard neither. Where is the technology, screamed a billion people. But that also didn't make a difference for the third umpire, with all the assistance he receives, managed to get one wrong again. Symonds was on 48. The rest, as they say, was savagery.