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Not quite having a ball

John Rogers blunts the Indian attack to add to selection worries before the Perth Test, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Jan 12, 2008 03:49 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Given that the batsmen had hardly done anything to flatter the team management a day earlier, the onus on Friday was on the bowlers to help Anil Kumble decide what combination he would try out in Perth , which is going to see a grudge game in testing conditions.

The ones under scrutiny were the quicker bowlers who are expected to shoulder a bulk of the burden in the third Test, but they didn’t do much to inspire confidence. The Australian Capital Territory (ATC) Invitational XI had just three batsmen with first-class experience and that they still survived 93 overs on way to 292 for eight tells the story.

That the three together contributed just 75 to the total and that the bowlers struggled to dislodge the rest comprising mostly amateur players showed how toothless the attack was. Blaming the benign pitch wouldn’t be prudent because although there were not too many loose deliveries on offer, they failed to consistently probe the right areas.

Starting the day, Irfan Pathan didn’t take long to hit the right length but, given his pace, he had to move the ball to cause trouble and this is where he was found wanting. With four left-handers in the top six, he got the ball to leave them only when he pitched it wide and whenever he was on the stumps, the ball didn’t move. He was better later in the day, but that wasn’t good enough.

From the other end, Pankaj Singh was expecting some seam movement bowling over the wicket and all he managed was to get the ball to leave the left-handers with the natural angle. He could have been more effective had he got the ball to straighten, which didn’t happen, and he ended up bowling on the pads whenever he tried to be different. While bowling to right-handers towards the end of the day, he failed to make them play as frequently as he or the captain would have liked.

With these two hardly beating the bat in their opening spells, a lot was expected from V.R.V. Singh, who made this trip on the back of two match-winning spells in the Ranji Trophy. Enigmatic though he is, the Punjab quick cut a sorry figure just as he had been in between those two efforts back home. One decent ball was followed by several bad ones and the wicketkeeper had a tough time diving on either side to collect wide deliveries every now and then. To make things worse, VRV bowled 11 no-balls in 11 overs.

Ishant Sharma was an exception with R.P. Singh and Harbhajan Singh to an extent and, probably to test the others, the first two were used sparingly. Lucky to see Ed Cowen drag his first ball on to the stumps off an inside edge, Ishant bowled as enthusiastically as a teenager would and was rewarded for landing the ball on the seam and letting it do the rest. But with him and RP certain to be in the XI in Perth, India’s search for the third quick continues.

After getting rid of the big guns in the local side, India found a tough cookie in John Rogers and that the 20-year-old engineering student trying to play grade cricket (below the first-class level) in Sydney defied them for 190 balls doesn’t speak highly about the incisiveness of an attack that needs to take 40 wickets to level the series.

Although not a first-class match, this was an important outing for India before the sterner tests ahead because this was an opportunity to return to action after the off-the-field hostilities and assess how useful the ones on the bench can be. After the first two days of this three-day game, India can only be happy on the first count, unless things take a dramatic turn on Saturday.