India openers defy Aussie pace and imposing total(Lead)

October 10th, 2008 - 7:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Oct 10 (IANS) No matter what the situation is, Virender Sehwag bats the way he does: aggressively. Though India were up against Australia’s intimidating first innings total of 430, the Najafgarh master blaster (batting 43) went about treating the visitors’ pace attack with disdain, driving and steering at will as India reached 68 for no loss when rain stopped play. Sehwag’s positive attitude as much as Gautam Gambhir’s industrious approach saw India stand up to Australia’s dominance in the match.

The M. Chinnaswamy wicket continued to be two-paced with the ball squatting at times to keep the batsmen on tenterhooks. As had Michael Hussey in the Australian innings, Sehwag and Gambhir (20 batting) did well to survive the shin-threatening missiles.

If Australia had backed their four-pronged pace attack to hassle the Indian batsmen, their strategy came a cropper. Lee went full throttle, but was wayward. Clark compromised line for pace to give away boundaries at ease. Johnson never looked the sort who could make an impression on this deck. So was Shane Watson.

Though Sehwag, who struck seven boundaries, called the shots in the last session, the day’s honours belonged to Michael Hussey, who notched a maiden hundred on Indian soil, his ninth in 27 Tests.

Hussey’s technique was impeccable, his defence impregnable, his temperament sage-like. So much so, seldom was he beaten by the bowlers who laboured hard for 149 overs. When he struck, he did with √©lan and precision, caressing the cherry to the pickets with silken grace. A six off Harbhajan Singh was the only show of aggression in an innings that lasted 404 minutes and consumed 276 deliveries.

Having made his debut at 30 when most Indian cricketers prepare for their retirement, he seems determined to garner as many runs as he could in the opportunities that come by. Little wonder then that he averages over 80 in Test cricket.

The 33-year-old had raised 74 runs for the sixth wicket with Brad Haddin (33) when the latter, deceived by an Ishant Sharma slower delivery, chipped an intended off-drive to VVS Laxman at short extra-cover. Ishant was to draw debutant Cameron White into the same ploy, luring the Victorian all-rounder into meekly jabbing the ball to Harbhajan Singh at covers.

Hussey and Lee produced 54 runs for the eighth wicket before Zaheer Khan, returning for his third spell in the day, cleaned up the Australian innings in a jiffy in the post-tea session. He castled Lee (27), Johnson (1) and Hussey in eleven balls to finish with figures of 5 for 91, his sixth five-wicket haul in 57 Tests.

While the impressive Ishant returned with four wickets, skipper Anil Kumbe and Harbhajan were far from impressive. In fact, Kumble went wicketless in 43 overs.

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