There were three centuries on the day and the most significant one was also the least edifying. Rohit Sharma, as is so often the case, marked being dropped from the Test setup with a polished century he will be proud of. Virat Kohli enhanced his fast growing reputation as an attacking batsman with 105 runs that came in excellent time.
But it was Jason Krejza’s 123, conceded off 20 overs that cost 6.15 apiece that was most telling. As Australia’s only fit specialist spinner on the tour, and an almost certain starter for the first Test, Krejza’s performance should bring some worry lines to the faces of captain Ricky Ponting and coach Tim Neilsen.
The Board President’s XI ended the day on 371 for six, scoring at an Australian pace, and by then the early collapse to 59 for three was pushed to the dark recesses of the memory.
The Australians wanted to use this match to fine tune their preparations ahead of the Test series, and the first day revealed much about what would work in India and what wouldn’t.
For Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson the day would have underlined what they already knew, that on sluggish pitches the slow bouncer is a weapon that can do much damage. It was such deliveries, sent down with the fingers cutting across the ball that accounted for a well-set Yuvraj Singh and troubled Sharma more than once.
The other thing that worked well was Stuart Clark’s disciplined and probing bowling, and though he was the best of the bowlers on display, was unlucky not to have the returns to show for it.
Clark did dismiss Wasim Jaffer but that was a bit of a gift, with the opener pulling a short ball straight down fine-leg’s throat for the first wicket of the day.
Another strategy that paid off, albeit with a little help from the umpires, was that of attacking the stumps, looking for the lbw rather than catches behind the stumps. With the pace of the pitch not quite what it would be in Australia, the fast bowlers kept it straight and won lbw shouts against Aakash Chopra and S. Badrinath, though both deliveries would have gone on to comfortably miss the stumps. Later, Kohli too got a bad decision.
The final lesson, probably the most critical, for the Australians, was that no amount of bluster and positivity about their inexperienced spinners can change what goes down out in the middle.
Krejza, who came into this game with 43 first-class wickets at an average of nearly 45, often failed to land the ball, once dropped it so short that he was in danger of injuring himself, and generally looked well out of his depth at this level. Both Sharma and Kohli put him to the sword, leaving him red-faced, literally and figuratively, at the end of a hard day’s toil, with none for 123.
India’s Test batsmen, fresh from having their reputations battered by Ajantha Mendis, should be licking their lips in anticipation.