An innings of the utmost brilliance from a novice, a superb exhibition from a temporary captain, a precise burst from a returning paceman and a robust contribution from an underestimated seamer has put Australia in a commanding position on the second day of the first Test here yesterday.
Michael Clarke's performance captured the imagination. His debut innings was the most stirring seen from an Australian since Doug Walters carted England around Brisbane in 1965. His effort contained numerous drives, pulls, and shots of his own invention.
Nor was it only his batting that caught the eye. Along the way the young New South Welshman laughed, kissed, embraced, cried and rejoiced. It was the most human of performances. Resuming on 76, Clarke batted calmly until the nineties whereupon the game became inexplicably difficult. He was fortunate to have the calming influence of Adam Gilchrist, who curtailed his own activities to guide the youngster to his dream. On reaching three figures Clarke raised his arms, danced a jig, kissed his cap, hugged his partner and burst into tears. It took a good delivery from Zaheer Khan to end an innings of 151 lasting almost six hours.
Gilchrist also played wonderfully, putting to rest fears that he might prove an inadequate replacement for his injured captain. He fell on the stroke of lunch to a diving catch by an otherwise unimpressive Harbhajan Singh.
No Indian bowlers caught the eye though Harbhajan's figures improved as his "doosra" confused the tail-enders.
No sooner had the Indian reply begun than wickets started to fall. Glenn McGrath troubled the batsmen with late movement. Aakash Chopra ignored a delivery that darted back and paid the penalty. Rahul Dravid was beaten by a corker that left him off the pitch. Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag rallied their side with bold strokes until Michael Kasprowicz removed both with cutters. When McGrath returned, Yuvraj Singh nibbled indiscreetly and was held behind the wicket.
Even Laxman could not defy the moment. Contained by astute fields and straight bowling, he was eventually beaten by the ball of the day, a Warne leg-break that drifted in and turned sharply to remove his off-bail. And so the day ended as it began, with Australians wearing grins and their opponents resembling aristocrats on the way to the guillotine.
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