If you thought Parvez Rasool’s seven-wicket haul was an aberration, then you were probably mistaken. And if you thought Ambati Rayudu’s 87 was a flash in the pan, then you may have been mistaken again. But how do you make sense of Australia losing four wickets for 11 runs, and that too to spinners not even close to national reckoning?
A few days after Rasool and Rayudu made an unquestionably depleted Aussie side dance to their tunes in the first warm-up game, it was the turn of Manoj Tiwary, Rakesh Dhruv and Jalaj Saxena to toy with the visitors. And toy they did all day long on a rain-interrupted Sunday. Tiwary duly completed a typically compact hundred —his 18th in first-class cricket and one which took him past 5,000 runs in this category — as India ‘A’ posted a more-than-decent 451 on Day Two of the three-day build-up tie. Mind you, the Bengal right-hander had also stroked a confident 93 against the visiting Englishmen not too long ago.
Shane Watson and Ed Cowan batted like they owned the place for 22 overs, caning the four medium pacers for well over five an over. But the moment Gautam Gambhir brought on Dhruv and Saxena, the script changed.
From being 116/0 in the 23rd over, the Aussies stuttered to be reduced to 127/4 in the 30th. Matthew Wade and Moises Henriques added no more than four runs in the next six overs before the umpires called it a day (overnight rain and a heavy cloud cover had resulted in the loss of a session).
Watson was in murderous form. The right-hander, however, conveyed he would bat at No 4 provided the dangerous David Warner got fit in time for the first Test starting on February 22.
Cowan was the first to depart, falling leg-before to a Dhruv delivery that kept low. Phil Hughes lasted just three deliveries. The left-hander stretched forward to work Saxena towards the leg side, but he missed the ball and wicketkeeper CM Gautam did the rest.
Watson needed just 52 deliveries for his half century but a harsh caught-behind decision cut short his stay. Usman Khawaja was a pain to watch, the southpaw consuming 24 deliveries for a solitary run. His hopes of making the XI for the Chennai Test went up in smoke after he misread Saxena and had his furniture disturbed. In all, Dhruv and Saxena bowled 17 overs, conceding just 33 runs and scalping the top four batsmen. They will be back for more on Monday. Tiwary, who felt that Australia had chinks in their technique against spin, said his “dream is to play Test cricket” and that he “would not mind batting at any position, not even as an opener”.
Brief scores: India A 451 (M Tiwary 129; X Doherty 3/108, A Agar 3/107) vs Australians 131/4 (S Watson 84, E Cowan 40; R Dhruv 2/19, J Saxena 2/14)