Saturday, Dec 07, 2002
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By S. Dinakar
Central Districts' Andrew Schwass, who claimed three wickets, has India's Parthiv Patel caught and bowled in the three-day match at Napier. Photo: N. Balaji
With the sun forcing its way through the clouds, the ground bathed in bright sunshine, light bounced off the grass, and it really was a wonderful ambience for cricket ... glorious cricket.
However, the picture was far from perfect for India on the opening day of its three-day match against Central Districts, here on Friday.
Put in by stand-in captain Craig Spearman Central Districts skipper and key all-rounder Jacob Oram pulled out because of a pulled hamstring in the morning the Indians, on a pitch with pace and seam movement, were dismissed for a disappointing 209, skipper Sourav Ganguly's 48 and Sachin Tendulkar's 44 being the chief contributions.
The Central Districts, that began its innings 35 minutes after tea, lost opener Peter Ingram, who fended at an Aashish Nehra delivery to be taken by Virender Sehwag at short-leg, ended at a comfortable 69 for one.
Spearman and Mathew Sinclair were unbeaten on 40 and 17 respectively.
Sinclair had a lucky escape off the first delivery he faced, but his edge fell just short of wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel, Nehra being the unlucky bowler.
The Central Districts pace attack of Michael Mason, Lance Hamilton, Andrew Schwass and Brent Hefford called the shots for most part, gaining lateral movement and bounce, even as the Indians stumbled.
Mason struck the early blows, dismissing Sehwag and Dravid in his fourth over, and returned later to send back Ganguly. Hamilton, a left-armer operating at a sharp pace, scalped Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman, and Schwass, who swung the ball around, pocketed Sanjay Bangar up the order, and Parthiv Patel and Ajit Agarkar further down .... it was a rewarding day in the office for the Central Districts pacemen.
Ganguly remained confident though that the Indians would get it right before the first Test at Wellington. "The day could have been better. There was a fair bit of grass on the wicket, and it seamed a bit, but that is only to be expected when you play in South Africa, England or New Zealand. Their seamers bowled a decent line. We have not had nets so far after coming here. I'm not worried (referring to the lone first class game before the first Test) about the lack of match practice. It's all in the mind, and we have to accept the itinerary. The top six has the experience to get runs when the ball seams.''
Central Districts coach Mark Greatbatch observed the Indians found it difficult to adjust to the conditions. "The wicket did a bit and they should have played with soft hands and close to the body, but their wrists came into play. It was a pretty happy day, but not a perfect one since we dropped a few catches. Our pacemen bowled well, they are experienced in first class cricket. Oram was 80 per cent fit, but we decided not to risk him.''
The shot selection of the Indians left much to be desired. Sehwag (12) swung at a Mason delivery that seamed away, got a leading edge, and Mathew Sinclair made no mistake in the slip cordon. Rahul Dravid (0) may have perished to a well-directed away seamer from Mason, but Sanjay Bangar's (21) airy drive at an out-swinger from Schwass did him little credit. The opener, who lasted 108 minutes, was earlier (on 9) put down in the third slip by Sinclair off Hamilton.
Tendulkar's blistering hundred in '98 is still remembered in Napier, and he produced some sparkling strokes in his 44 (80m, 6x4), that included two rasping square-cuts and a delightful flick off one Hamilton over, but the left-armer soon had the maestro driving at a full length delivery, and the stumps were rearranged. The Indians went to lunch at an uneasy 93 for four.
And after the break, Hamilton combined with 'keeper Sigley to consume Laxman (9), and half the side had been sent packing for 137.
Ganguly, tested by some short pitched stuff from Hamilton and dropped early by How at point off Schwass, settled down to play some elegant strokes, none more than a gorgeous cover drive off Schwass, however, Parthiv Patel (7) and Ajit Agarkar (0), departed early.
Ganguly (48, 81b, 5x4) was a whisker away from a half-century, when his attempt to cut Mason ended in Sigley's gloves. Harbhajan, who made his intentions very clear clouted Glen Sulzburger for a six, when spin was introduced after 56 overs, but the offie snared the Sardar for a lively 28, and, after a couple of productive strokes from Nehra, the Indian innings came to a halt at 209.
In seaming conditions that required application, the Indian batsmen had come up short. The unsung Hamilton, Schwass, and Mason had done their job against their fancied rivals.
India 1st innings: S. Bangar c Sigley b Schwass 21, V. Sehwag c Sinclair b Mason 12, R. Dravid c Sigley b Mason 0, S. Tendulkar b Hamilton 44, V.V.S. Laxman c Sigley b Hamilton 9, S. Ganguly c Sigley b Mason 48, P. Patel c & b Schwass 7, A. Agarkar lbw b Schwass 0, H. Singh c Hefford b Sulzberger 29, A. Nehra c How b Sulzberger 14, T. Yohannan (not out) 4. Extras (b-2, lb-11, w-1, nb-7) 21. Total 209.
Fall of wickets: 1-20, 2-20, 3-70, 4-84, 5-137, 6-144, 7-159, 8-161, 9-198.
Central Districts bowling: Michael Mason 17-3-46-3; Lance Hamilton 22-8-52-2; Brent Hefford 10-2-34-0; Andrew Schwass 13-2-46-3; Glenn Sulzberger 6.3-3-18-2.
Central Districts 1st innings: Craig Spearman (batting) 40, Peter Ingram c Sehwag b Nehra 10, M. Sinclair (batting) 17. Extras (w-1, nb-1) 2. Total (for one wkt.) 69.
Fall of wicket: 1-16.
India bowling: Agarkar 6-3-13-0; Nehra 6-2-23-1; Yohannan 3-0-13-0; Bangar 2-0-13-0; Harbhajan 1-0-7-0.
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