Left-arm spinner Dhruv and offie Saxena account for nine first-innings wickets
The Australians will seek a solution to the spin conundrum on this campaign. When the ball turns, the batsmen need to think on their feet. And they have to be decisive. The slow turner at the IC-Guru Nanak ground would have provided the Australians much-needed practice in these conditions even if the side stumbled in the first innings.
Following on after a disastrous first innings — Australia was dismissed for 235 in only 62.3 overs — against India ‘A’, the visitors came up with a better display in the second essay reaching at 195 for three as the contest ended in a draw.
The surface for the first Test, beginning at the M.A. Chidambaram on February 22, will be different. That pitch is expected to contain a fair amount of red soil, enabling the ball to turn and bounce quicker off the pitch.
But then, spending time in the middle ahead of the important series opener would have been invaluable for the Aussie batsmen.
For India ‘A’, left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhruv and off-spinner Jalaj Saxena scalped five and four each in the Australian first innings. The duo bowled a disciplined line, built pressure and forced errors.
The visitors were fuelled by a forceful Shane Watson (60, 63b, 9x4, 1x6) in the second innings. Gautam Gambhir had Dhruv partnering paceman Manpreet Grewal in a spin-pace new-ball pairing to deny batting rhythm to Watson — the powerful right-hander can bludgeon the quicker bowlers at the start — but the all-rounder once again succeeded in getting off to a flier.
Watson’s ability to disrupt the length of the bowlers with front-footed drives and lofts, back-footed punches and whips and horizontal bat strokes, was evident.
He was looking good for more when he backed up too far after Ed Cowan drove Saxena to short cover and was caught short of the crease.
The left-handed Cowan (53, 81b, 9x4, 1x6), who did use his feet to get to the pitch of the ball against spinners, made an impression before being prised out by Saxena’s change of pace.
Southpaw Philip Hughes threw his wicket away by swiping at Dhruv but the left-handed pair of Usman Khawaja (30 not out) and Matthew Wade (19 not out) handled spin with composure. Khawaja, who could find a place in the Test eleven with David Warner doubtful, appeared compact at the crease.
In the Australian first innings, Wade (44) offered resistance with a sound blend of defence and aggression. And all-rounder Moises Henriques (33) went after the bowlers — this could be a well-defined batting role for him in the Tests — but the Aussie innings ended 39 minutes before lunch.
Dhruv and Saxena, an interesting spin combination, made inroads. In these conditions, spin can sting.
The 31-year-old Dhruv is someone who has been around for a long time. He was a part of the National Cricket Academy’s early batch in 2000 but big time cricket eluded him.
Dhruv has a relaxed, balanced release and bowls with control if not variety. One, however, got the impression that he was not ripping the ball hard enough to extract greater turn.
The left-armer is a clever bowler, though, and does use the crease to vary the angles.
Saxena made an impression. He has a clean action and relies on his stock ball, the off-spinner. He delivers from a nice, side-on position and does impart plenty of revolutions on the ball.
Given that four frontline Australian batsmen — Cowan, Hughes, Khawaja and Wade — were left-handers, Saxena was in the thick of things with an attacking cordon around the batsmen.
India ‘A’ — 1st innings: 451.
Australian XI — 1st innings: S. Watson c Gautam b Dhruv 84; E. Cowan lbw b Dhruv 40; P. Hughes st C.M. Gautam b Saxena 1; U. Khawaja b Saxena 1; M. Wade c Grewal b Dhruv 44, M. Henriques lbw b Dhruv 33, P. Siddle run out 2, M. Starc c Vinay Kumar b Saxena 11, N. Lyon b Saxena 0, X. Doherty c Gautam b Dhruv 7, A. Agar (not out) 4, Extras (b-4, lb-2, nb-2) 8; Total (in 62.3 overs) 235.
Fall of wkts: 1-116, 2-117, 3-127, 4-127, 5-176, 6-182, 7-199, 8-199, 9-214.
India ‘A’ bowling: Vinay Kumar 9-3-16-0, Kulkarni 10-2-37-0, Grewal 4-0-37-0; Nayar 6-0-27-0, Dhruv 14.3-2-51-5, Saxena 19-6-61-4.
Australian XI — 2nd innings: S. Watson (run out) 60, E. Cowan c Vinay Kumar b Saxena 53, P. Hughes b Dhruv 19, U. Khawaja (not out) 30, M. Wade (not out) 19, Extras (b-8, lb-5, nb-1) 14; Total (for three wkts in 55 overs) 195.
Fall of wkts: 1-104, 2-118, 3-162.
India ‘A’ bowling: Grewal 7-0-30-0, Dhruv 18-3-57-1, Saxena 16-4-37-1, Rohit 4-0-22-0, Tiwary 10-0-36-0.