Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwari lend admirable support
Gautam Gambhir appeared a man on a mission after his omission from the Indian Test squad.
He was light on his feet and weighty with his strokes against the spinners and circumspect while coping with the pacemen. Indeed, the left-hander’s pleasing 112 (162b, 13x4, 3x6) was a fine blend of solidity and freedom.
And, India ‘A’, winning the toss, progressed to a healthy 338 for four against the Australians on the opening day of the three-day first class match here on Saturday.
Aussie spinners struggle
The smooth-stroking Rohit Sharma (77, 144b, 8x4, 3x6) and the hard-hitting Majoj Tiwari (77 batting, 106b, 12x4, 1x6) also staked their claims on a day when the Australian spin bowling was put to the sword on a sluggish pitch that offered some turn.
Skipper Gambhir displayed the tightness around the off-stump, which had eluded him in the Test arena over the past two years, against the pacemen. His judgment of line could not be faulted.
Gambhir played the two-card trick capably against the spinners. He came down the track, got to the pitch of the ball, and essayed the lofted shots with élan.
Consequently, when the Australian spinners pitched a tad short, he went back and produced the cut. Guided by the late Parthasarathy Sharma, Gambhir is a fine exponent of using-the-depth-of-the-crease theory against spinners.
There was a minor fire — it was put out quickly — in a building close to the ground in the morning but Gambhir provided the fireworks in the middle.
Gambhir sliced open off-spinner Nathan Lyon and young left-arm spinner Ashton Agar, picking as many as 40 and 32 runs off them.
A distraught Agar was given a quiet word of advice by Australian captain Michael Clarke, not playing this game, near the ropes.
Shane Watson, leading the team in this game, maintained attacking fields that may have allowed India ‘A’ to score quickly, but the Australians will be worried by the lack of control shown by their lead spinner Nathon Lyon.
Only left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty managed to make some impression with his quicker variety of left-arm spin with subtle change in angles. He scalped three.
Rohit — he was involved in a 128-run second-wicket partnership with Gambhir — struck the ball with the full face of the willow and eased it through the gaps. He was eventually caught behind off a Doherty delivery that held its line.
Tiwary, his feet rather wide in stance, has a bustling, entertaining style of batsmanship. The right-hander was, however, tested with some aggressive short-pitched bowling from Peter Siddle in the final session of the day.
Siddle and left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc bowled to a good rhythm and generated speed. There was reverse swing for them too. But clever medium pacer Moises Henriques was the lone paceman to be successful when he had Gambhir taken at slip.
Towards the end of the day, wicketkeeper-batsman C.M. Gautam (34 batting) stood his ground against the pacemen with a resolute display.
The scores: India ‘A’ — 1st innings: G. Gambhir c Watson b Henriques 112, Jiwanjot Singh c Watson b Doherty 24, R. Sharma c Wade b Doherty 77, M. Tiwary (batting) 77, A. Nayar c Cowan b Doherty 4, C.M. Gautam (batting) 34; Extras (b-3, lb-5, nb2): 10; Total (for four wkts in 90 overs): 338.
Fall of wickets: 1-67, 2-195, 3-266, 4-272.
Australian XI bowling: Starc 16-5-36-0, Siddle 14-4-30-0, Henriques 11-2-20-1, Lyon 20-1-97-0, Doherty 16-2-69-3, Agar 13-1-78-0.