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Hussey ton propels Oz to a safe position

Michael Hussey controlled the Australian first innings with the kind of sense and serenity that reduced India's bowlers to a helpless lot , writes Anand Vasu. See graphics

cricket Updated: Oct 11, 2008 00:53 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times

Michael Hussey provided the blueprint for Australia's batsmen, if they are to have success in Indian conditions. The left-handed batsman controlled the Australian first innings with the kind of sense and serenity that reduced India's bowlers to a helpless lot till Zaheer Khan extracted late reverse-swing in a sharp burst that took his innings bag to five wickets and kept the Australians down to 430. When India's reply began Virender Sehwag showed a different way to succeed, but no other batsman should attempt to copy it, for few can bat with such disregard to opposition attacks or conditions. India made a sound start, reaching 68 without loss in one-and-a-half hours before an energetic evening shower brought play to an early close.

What is remarkable about Hussey's batting is that there is very little remarkable in what he does. That he can concentrate for long periods is well known, but he does not do so to the detriment of run scoring. That he can clear the ropes was in evidence, when he lifted Harbhajan Singh for a six over midwicket.

To be fair Hussey was helped along by some undisciplined bowling from the Indians. While Ishant Sharma ran in with intensity, and was rewarded with the early wicket of Shane Watson when a ball kept a touch low to beat the stroke and rattle the timber, there was no-one to tie the other end down. Zaheer began the day poorly, bowling far too often on the pads and getting picked off with ease. Neither Anil Kumble nor Harbhajan threatened and Hussey went quietly from his overnight 46 to the nineties. If Hussey was well set, Brad Haddin certainly wasn't and India's best chance was to prise him out early. Instead they allowed a partnership of 91 to develop almost unchecked.

Hussey got to his ninth hundred, a remarkable achievement considering he's only playing his 26 th Test match, with an inside edge four to third-man off Ishant, but no-one could grudge him that slice of luck.

Haddin (33) had just begun to play a few shots when Ishant returned for a second spell where he interspersed slower deliveries just often enough to deceive the batsman. One such finger-rolled off-cutter elicited the drive from Haddin and VVS Laxman extended to his full height to take a sharp catch above his head at short cover.

Craig White's first minutes as a Test cricketer were less than special and he too fell to Ishant's slower ball, ballooning an easy catch to Harbhajan at cover.

Hussey continued to resist even as his partners changed and Brett Lee proved better than the two that had gone before him. He was involved in the fourth 50-partnership of the innings, and only fell when Zaheer hurried one through to flatten the off stump as Lee (27) played late. Mitchell Johnson dragged an inducker onto his leg stump and just when it appeared that Hussey would run out of partners he was last man out. Zaheer picked up his 6 th Test five-for, with Hussey dragging a widish ball back onto his stumps. Hussey had batted just under seven hours for his 146 and Australia had posted a healthy 430 in their first dig on this tour. Hussey walked off to a warm round of applause from the Bangalore crowd, perhaps sparked off by Rahul Dravid patting the Aussie on the back while running off to get his own pads on.

But Dravid need not have bothered. Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag soaked up the pressure of the scoreboard with consummate ease, dropping the ball down with soft hands and pinching quick singles. Sehwag was not content with merely running hard, and attacked whenever he was given width, picking up seven boundaries to Gambhir's three as India closed on 68 for no loss. Sehwag and Gambhir had each faced 55 balls, but unsurprisingly, Sehwag had 23 runs more than Gambhir's 20.