It has been mixed signals so far from the Australian side that will take on India in five days’ time. But are they prepared for another challenge on the dust bowl?
The Board President’s XI match underway at Hyderabad has shown that the Australians are still susceptible to spin. One had only to look at the way, Indian discards and spinners, Pragyan Ojha and Piyush Chawla ran through the virtually Test team Australia to understand why India stand a chance of upstaging the Australians.
Finding themselves at 128 for four and skipper Ricky Ponting once again showing vulnerability against spin (falling to Chawla with his middle stump uprooted), Australia were in a pickle after BP XI’s first innings total of 455. But Mike Hussey showed the wealth of experience under his belt even if he is yet to play a Test in India. In combination with Brad Haddin, the partnership worth seventy-one runs proved the mainstay between close of play on day two and the start of play on day three.
But the consolidation was short lived. Australia looked like folding up before lunch with as many as five wickets falling in the space of just nineteen runs. And it was not the fast bowlers using the early juice in the pitch. Rather it was the Indians spinners that wrecked Australia’s ship. The wickets came a-tumbling while it looked like Hussey would be stranded in sight of a century. The shots on offer from the Australians will be very encouraging for the veteran spinners in the Indian side, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. The Australian batsmen looked to either hit their way through the web of spin or trying best not to get bat anywhere near ball and only ending up posing themselves as sitting ducks. The results were, without doubt, extraordinary.
But it would not be a cakewalk. At nine down for 218, BP XI looked like they would run through Australia in this tour match. But then came a resolute partnership between Hussey and number eleven, Stuart Clark. For the entire span of ninety-six runs thereafter, BP XI failed to find the final breakthrough they were desperately seeking while Australia just managed to escape the clutches of a follow-on, whether it was enforced or not being another matter altogether.
The partnership was significant from two points of view – one was that the Australian team may be largely inexperienced in the matters of runs, but are not short on talent as was evident in the case of Hussey who made a brilliant unbeaten 126, the only saving grace really perhaps in the entire Australia line up that has seen even Ponting struggle (so much for Chappell’s threat; none was evident). Clark was batting the way the top order should have, as he displayed playing shots to perfection against the spinners and even taking them to the cleaners on a couple of occasions. Clark’s innings of forty-four showed attack and defense and was important from the stand point of the game. The tail did wag even if it was one man who scored the bulk of the runs while foiling BP XI’s plans to bat Australia out of the game, reducing the lead to just 141 and plucking two BP XI wickets in no time.