It was honours even as the first day’s play of the fourth and final Test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy drew to a close. Trend of the day, as has been for the most part of the series, was just when the Indian batsmen threatened to run away with the game, some plucky bowling by the Australians pegged them back to square one.
The hosts were 311/5, with Sourav Ganguly (unbeaten 27), playing his last Test, and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni holding forte when bad light forced an early end to Day One’s play with 3 overs from the stipulated quota still to spare.
The Dada-Dhoni combo would be looking to build on the day’s performances on day 2 and take India past the 400 run-mark. The visitors on the other-hand would be looking for the crucial breakthrough that will expose India’s tail.
The opening day was dominated by two individuals, as stark in contrast as chalk and cheese. While India had Sachin Tendulkar to thank for notching up 300 plus score on day 1, Aussies found an unlikely hero in off-spinner Jason Kreiza.
Tendulkar had slammed his 40th Test century to give India a solid platform and bat Australia out of the match. The effort was marked with some exceptional shot-making and sharp running between the wickets as the Mumbai Maestro seemed to have turned back the clock on his glory years. He was eventually dismissed by Mitchell Johnson, adjudged LBW to a back of a length spot delivery. He departed for a majestic 109 off 188 balls, in a knock laced with 12 hits to the fence. He however, had his share of luck, as he was dropped twice- by Johnson on 85 and by Brett Lee on 96.
Meanwhile, continuing on his rich vein of form which he seems to reserve for the Aussies, VVS Laxman marked his 100th Test appearance with yet another half-century against the world champions, his 37th in his illustrious career. But just as he looked set for a big knock, he succumbed to the Australian wrecker-in-chief of the day, Jason Krejza.
Earlier in the day, the morning session came with a mixed bag of goodies for both the teams as India started off well with Sehwag’s pyrotechnics with Ponting’s men turning the tables towards the end of the session with three quick wickets.
After Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat, Sehwag had got the proceedings off to a flier with his brilliant stroke-making and slammed a quick fire fifty.
Debutant M Vijay played perfect foil to him as the duo rotated the strike effectively and got the boundaries with ease, creating problems for the Aussie bowlers.
With run-rate plummeting at 5 an over, Australia had got their first breakthrough of the morning in the form of Vijay wicket. The 24 year old, who struck 33, showing great promise and poise in the middle until he was caught behind the wicket by Brad Haddin off Shane Watson’s short of a length delivery. With the much needed breakthrough in the bag, Aussies step up the pressure as Krejza got his first Test wicket in the form of Rahul Dravid for a duck.
However, Krejza actually announced his arrival on the world stage when he claimed the prized scalp of Virender Sehwag with a beauty. Just when the Delhi dasher seemed to become unstoppable, bludgeoning the bowlers into submission, Kreiza bowled a well disguised turner that was dragged onto the stumps by Sehwag in an attempt to run it to third man. The ‘Sehwag show’ that lasted just 69 balls, yielded 66 runs. He struck 9 fours and a mighty six over long on of Kreiza.
With India placed at a shaky 116/3, it was left to old hands Tendulkar and Laxman to revive fortunes.
Australia (Playing XI): Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting(c), Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Shane Watson, Cameron White, Brad Haddin(w), Brett Lee, Jason Krejza, Mitchell Johnson
India (Playing XI): Murali Vijay, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Saurav Ganguly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni(w/c), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma