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Few positives for listless BP XI

Shashank Manohar has every right to be embarrassed. A team bearing his name, the Board President’s XI, allowed the Australians to score 505, making the pitch appear placid, and promptly slumped to 53 for five. They eventually limped to 143 for six, but the damage had been done.

cricket Updated: Sep 26, 2010 23:49 IST
Anand Vasu

Shashank Manohar has every right to be embarrassed. A team bearing his name, the Board President’s XI, allowed the Australians to score 505, making the pitch appear placid, and promptly slumped to 53 for five. They eventually limped to 143 for six, but the damage had been done.

Gautam Gambhir, the one batsman with a serious chance of redeeming the hosts’ game, started with a pleasing clip off the toes to the square-leg boundary.

Just when he appeared to be setting his sight on a long stay, Ben Hilfenhaus got a ball to rear nastily off a good length, and Gambhir did not have enough time to sway out of the way, and only managed a lobbed catch to gully. Ajinkya Rahane lasted two balls, wafting outside the off to present Shane Watson with a simple catch to slip.

Shikhar Dhawan nicked the first ball the tall Peter George sent down on Indian soil and all eyes were on Cheteshwar Pujara, the man some hope will eventually replace Rahul Dravid in the Test team.

Rising up to play down the short ball, and leaning into forward defensive strokes, Pujara (9) showed for 42 minutes why he has been such a difficult batsman to dislodge in domestic cricket. Mitchell Johnson, however, is quicker than any domestic bowler Pujara has faced, and when he sent down a delivery on the middle stump that tailed away a fraction, Pujara’s off stump went for a long walk.

If the bowlers had operated without purpose on the first day, the batsmen abdicated their responsibility on the second, leaving the Board President’s XI with few positives to comfort themselves with.

When the day began, what everyone wanted to see was whether S Sreesanth and the other bowlers had learnt lessons from the first day’s showing. While Sreesanth was marginally better, in that he made the batsmen play more often, it was Pragyan Ojha who caught the eye. With the selectors and Mahendra Singh Dhoni still to decide on a firm spin partner for Harbhajan Singh, Ojha gave the men in power something to think about.

If the first day was all about control — he bowled 21 overs for only 23 runs — Ojha struck decisively early on the second.

Ricky Ponting going fully back and across to cut a straight delivery, watched the ball pass below the bat and peg back the stumps as it kept low a touch. Five runs later, Michael Clarke popped a catch to the close-in fielder Rahane, breathing life into proceedings.

Marcus North, perhaps the only player in the Australian line-up who is not entirely sure of his place in the eleven, bedded down for the long haul, and soon began tucking in.

After the brief promise of the morning, normal service resumed, and North (124), made the most of the listless bowling to announce his return to form. Wicketkeeper Tim Paine spent close to three hours at the crease and the innings ended on 505.