Dravid's choice hands initiative to Australia

India 22-2 v Australia
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The Independent Online

"Oh, no!" roared the headline on the front page of Bombay's afternoon newspaper. It might have been a reference to Rahul Dravid's decision to bat first under sultry skies and upon a pitch as green as a contented frog. It might have been the coach's comment on seeing the shots, essayed by his senior opening batsman, during the course of a brief contribution on the first day of this final Test. In fact it was merely a reaction to events in the United States of America.

"Oh, no!" roared the headline on the front page of Bombay's afternoon newspaper. It might have been a reference to Rahul Dravid's decision to bat first under sultry skies and upon a pitch as green as a contented frog. It might have been the coach's comment on seeing the shots, essayed by his senior opening batsman, during the course of a brief contribution on the first day of this final Test. In fact it was merely a reaction to events in the United States of America.

India did not enjoy their 49 minutes of batting spread over two rain-free periods. Having lost Shane Warne for a month, the Australians felt obliged to play Nathan Hauritz, a much travelled off-spinner from Queensland who averaged 63 (with the ball) in last season's interstate matches. Hauritz shed tears as Glenn McGrath presented him with his baggy green cap. He has become the 390th man to play Test cricket for Australia.

Play did not start until after lunch, with Virender Sehwag at his most haphazard, wafting away like a madman drawing pictures in the air. He might have been held at gully as he drove at McGrath without any foot movement. But, then, the feet are merely the brains at work.

Undeterred, he flirted away from his body and managed to steer the ball through the narrowest of gaps in the slips. If warning bells were ringing in his head, he showed no sign of hearing them. All too soon he drove loosely at an off-cutter that broke back through the yawning gap left between bat and pad.

Gautam Gambhir emerged as a neat left-hander inclined to play across his front pad, a technique swiftly exposed by the Australians. One appeal for lbw was rightly rejected but the next brought a raised finger as Jason Gillespie's inswinger straightened after pitching on leg stump. India were tottering at 12 for 2 when Sachin Tendulkar joined Dravid, his acting captain, and had time to break his duck with a risky single before the conditions deteriorated and the players headed for the pavilion where they remained for several hours.

Upon the resumption, the Indian second-wicket pair defended anxiously until the umpires decided that the light was too murky for a red ball to be faced with any confidence. The boisterous crowd was disappointed but lost time can be recovered, besides which this match was never destined to last five days.

First day, India won toss

INDIA - First Innings

G Gambhir lbw b Gillespie 3

V Sehwag b McGrath 8

*R Dravid not out 9

S R Tendulkar not out 2

Extras 0

Total: (for 2, 11 overs) 22

Fall: 1-11 2-11.

To bat: V V S Laxman, M Kaif, ÝK K D Karthik, A Kumble, H Singh, M Kartik, Z Khan.

Bowling: McGrath 6-4-9-1; Gillespie 5-0-13-1.

Australia: M L Hayden, J L Langer, *R T Ponting, D R Martyn, S M Katich, M J Clarke, ÝA C Gilchrist, N M Hauritz, J N Gillespie, M S Kasprowicz, G D McGrath.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and R E Koertzen (SA).

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