Nathan Hauritz has made a career out of being underrated and understated. Now the Australian off-spinner is at it again, nipping up on the blind side in a land where quality slow bowlers are two a rupee to cement his spot in the world's most consistent 50-over outfit.
Australia, fresh from retaining the Champions Trophy in South Africa earlier this month and already one up in their seven-match series against India, went into today's second match, in Nagpur, looking unusually vulnerable following injuries to Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and James Hopes. But, so far this year, Hauritz has quietly gone from strength to strength.
He was the chap, you will remember, who came to England to provide Andrew Strauss and the rest of our batsmen with a bit of light relief during the Ashes. And, just as almost everyone predicted, he failed to make it to the finishing line. Thank goodness.
Having comfortably outperformed opposite number Graeme Swann (10 wkts at an average of 32 compared with six at 68) up until the final Test at The Oval, Hauritz was surprisingly left out of the decider, with Australia either misreading the pitch or, unusually for them, preferring an easy life by naming an unchanged side after their fast bowlers had routed England at seamer-friendly Headingley.
It was fairly obvious the Aussies had boobed by the end of the first day's play – and as plain as the scowl on Ricky Ponting's face long before Swann took his eighth and final wicket of the match to seal England's Ashes triumph. But there you are, friend as well as foe has been guilty of undervaluing Hauritz. Not anymore, though, thanks to Hauritz's impressive limited-overs form.
He appeared in all seven internationals as England were thumped 6-1, then played a full part in the Champions Trophy success – including figures of three for 37 as New Zealand were beaten in the final – and last Sunday made a fine start to the seven-match series in India.
He helpedd New South Wales win Twenty20 cricket's first Champions League and, despite tiredness and lack of preparation, he produced the tightest bowling (1 for 34 off nine overs) in a thrilling match which Australia eventually won by four runs.
"The body was tired but you are playing for your country and you don't want to miss a game," Hauritz said after the visitors had survived a threatening ninth-wicket stand of 84 between Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar. "I try to never take a game for granted." And no wonder – especially in India.
A successful one-day series on the subcontinent must be near the top of Hauritz's personal wishlist, given his international career was put into cold storage for four years soon after a disappointing Test appearance in Mumbai in 2004, when part-time spinner Michael Clarke outbowled him.
More than seven years since his first international appearance, Hauritz is no candidate for the ICC's Emerging Player award. But if there was a gong for Re-emerging Player, he would be in with a shout.
"I don't know if the way I bowl has ever changed too much," he said ahead of today's second match. "Maybe people are perceiving it to be a little bit more attacking. Bowling on a few more turning wickets, people can actually see the ball spin – so I'm not the person who just bowls straight-breaks anymore!"
In the first match, Australia looked home after making 292 for 8 then reducing India to 201 for 7. A late flurry from the Indian tail gave Australia a scare, but the champions refused to buckle and were today seeking to further improve a run of 12 victories in 13 ODIs.
Men on a mission: Four to watch in India
Shane Watson Plenty has gone right this year for the big, blond all-rounder, including his reinvention as a Test opener, but his bowling remains one-dimensional.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni Many would like to see India's dynamic captain-keeper bat in the top four so he can do more damage. MS reckons that five is high enough, though.
Tim Paine Brad Haddin's finger injury has been a lucky break for his deputy. If Paine can kick on with bat and gloves in India he will take some shifting.
Ishant Sharma Wonderfully impressive against Australia and England a year ago, has been brought to earth a bit in 2009. But at just 21, he's still a diamond worth polishing.