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Mr Dependable saves India's blushes, hits ton

Rahul Dravid struck a classic century as India recovered from mid-innings jolts to reach a comfortable 249 for three.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2003 00:13 IST
Kadambari Murali
Kadambari Murali

The day that the Indian cricketing fraternity had been waiting for finally arrived. After an almost unheard of five months since a one-day match and double that period since a Test, international cricket was back on the map.

The brotherhood was abuzz, everyone who was anyone was there in some capacity —- commentator, consultant, expert, selector, official.

Ultimately, Day One of the first Test wasn’t all that much fun, apart from the last session of play, when Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman decided to pep things up a bit and put on an unbeaten 100 runs.

Otherwise, it was a typical first day of a Test in India —- a slow wicket not very conducive to strokeplay, a small, restless crowd and a battle of attrition with the batsmen grinding the bowlers into the dust.

Someone was bound to stand his ground and make runs and fortunately for India? who had their first piece of luck when Sourav Ganguly won the toss —- more than one person did it.

Centurion Dravid (110 not out), who seems to have continued almost uninterrupted from last year, Laxman (unbeaten on 56), who seems to thrive when it’s Dravid at the other end, and debutant Aakash Chopra, who seemed set for a 50 on debut but fell eight short, giving a gleeful Daniel Vettori a return catch when trying to drive him on the up.

At stumps, given the conditions, India were pretty comfortably placed at 249 for three as Stephen Fleming led a tired Kiwi unit off the field. Talking of Fleming, his famed innovative captaincy was not too much in focus once Dravid and Laxman settled down and began the grind.

Fleming tried to marshal his rather ordinary bowling attack in not so helpful conditions as best as he could, but there was only this much even he could do.

Early on in the day though, he was very much the thinker, when the Delhi duo of Chopra and Virender Sehwag walked out to take strike. The planning was evident in the way he set his field.

For Sehwag, Fleming had three gullies, a point and a third man in place. The message was clear —- ‘go ahead and play your shots’.

Sehwag, incidentally, fell leg before to Daryl Tuffey for a typically quickfire 29 (the lack of conversions to a big score will have him worried) but not before Fleming’s placement nearly worked.

Craig McMillan at third man failed to hold on to a characteristic Sehwag slash off Tuffey. The ball bounced off his hand over the boundary.

While we’re on the topic of the flamboyant opener, here’s an interesting aside. He took off in the afternoon to the practice nets in front of the clubhouse with Sairaj Bahutule and spent a long while there.

Anyway, more than Sehwag, it was Chopra who impressed. His mature temperament, of which we’ve seen quite a bit in the two tour games at Vizag and Rajkot where he made a 100 not out and 66, was in evidence again on Wednesday. He was patient, focussed and very much in control for the duration of his stay at the wicket.

The other important thing was that he seemed much more comfortable against the short ball than he was in Rajkot.

Fleming had set a leg gully and a forward short leg, got the bowlers to bowl around the wicket, short and into the body every now and then and Chopra seemed to have no problem making the required adjustments. He saw off the new ball, as was his brief, and though it’s early days yet, he looks to be the answer to India’s opening dilemma.

One more thing. The question most were asking by the end of the day was, where is Sourav Ganguly? The Indian skipper normally comes into bat at no. 5 in Tests and was largely expected to come in at the fall of Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket. He didn’t and sent Laxman instead. It was learnt later that the reason behind his dropping down the order was an abscess in his thigh.

New Zealand

Stephen Fleming, Mark Richardson, Nathan Astle, Lou Vincent, Scott Styris, Craig McMillan, Jacob Oram, Robbie Hart, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Paul WisemanIan Butler (12th man)


SouravGanguly, SachinTendulkar, VirenderSehwag, Akash Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Venkatsai Laxman, ParthivPatelHarbhajanSingh, ZaheerKhan, Anil Kumble, Laxmipathy Balaji, Yuvraj Singh (12th man)


First Published: Oct 08, 2003 09:22 IST