Metaphorically speaking, Stuart Binny is probably a mile away from breaking into the Test side. However, the Karnataka all-rounder can take heart from this statistic. Of the 23 Australian wickets that fell in three innings across five days of ‘warm-up’ cricket between February 12 and 18 (Monday), only one went to a medium-pacer — Binny had dismissed Glenn Maxwell in Chennai.
Parvez Rassol (7) and Sarabjit Ladda (2) — for the Board President’s XI — and Rakesh Dhruv (6) and Jalaj Saxena (5) — for India ‘A’ — shared the spoils. There was also a run-out, if you could call it one (see related report).
You could arrive at two conclusions after going through this ‘break-up’. Firstly, India doesn’t have a single top-notch pace bowler waiting in the wings. The likes of Shami Ahmed, Parvinder Awana, Dhawal Kulkarni, R Vinay Kumar and Manpreet Singh Gony have a lot of work to do before they could be labelled ‘Test-class’. Secondly, and more pertinently, Australia have serious issues when it comes to bowling and tackling spin.
Australia, who first took on the Board President’s XI in a two-day encounter before locking horns with a star-studded India ‘A’ side in a three-day contest which concluded on Monday, go into the first Test with several questions unanswered.
Will David Warner be fit in time for the series opener starting on Friday? If he doesn’t, then Shane Watson will obviously open the innings with Ed Cowan. The duo gave a good account of themselves, adding 116 and 104, respectively, in very quick time against India ‘A’.
Australia, who resumed the day at 131/4, were bowled out for the addition of 104 runs in 26.3 overs on a humid Monday morning. Dhruv and Saxena, who had split the wickets a day earlier, came back to inflict more damage on the visitors’ psyche. The seasoned left-arm spinner from Gujarat and the young offie from Madhya Pradesh gobbled up five of the six wickets that fell on Day Three as Australia were bowled out for 235. In all, the spin duo took 9/112.
All credit to Gautam Gambhir, the India ‘A’ skipper deciding to impose the follow-on instead of batting all over again. Australia put up an impressive show in the second dig, posting 195/3 in 55 overs following which the teams chose to shake hands instead of playing out the mandatory overs.
Watson followed up his 84 with an identical 60 (63 balls, 9x4, 1x6) before a mix-up with Cowan saw him get run out in the 22nd over. Left-hander Cowan, who had scored a 58 in the previous game and 40 in the first essay here, came up with another composed knock on Monday (53).
He became Saxena’s fifth scalp when a well-timed drive landed in the hands of R Vinay Kumar at short cover. Phil Hughes, who was stumped for just one on Sunday, faced 60 deliveries for 19 (1x4). The southpaw, here after a great home summer, will bat at No 3 in the series, never mind he got bowled off Dhruv in the second innings.
The other questions facing the visitors are: do they go in with two specialist spinners or stick to their strength, which is raw pace, even if India dish out a square turner? And how do they plan to take 20 wickets?
India, though, need to be wary of Australia because, like England, they could get better as the series progresses. Good teams learn from their mistakes. In short, India have to win the first Test and then keep the pressure on, something they failed to do after thrashing England in Ahmedabad. The good thing is that Nathan Lyon and Xavier Doherty are no Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. But you never know.
Brief scores: India ‘A’ 451 (M Tiwary 129, G Gambhir 112, R Sharma 77; A Agar 3/107, X Doherty 3/108) drew with Australia 235 (S Watson 84, M Wade 44; R Dhurv 5/51, J Saxena 4/61) & 195/3
(S Watson 60, E Cowan 53; R Dhurv 1/57, J Saxena 1/37)