It was a spectacular day of cricket at the visually beautiful Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium where a second string team representing the Indian Cricket Board made the World Champs Australians look out of sorts. After a shaky position of 120 for 4, the Board President’s XI looked as if they were going to be bundled out for 200-250. But as a fresh breath of air came two great knocks from young Rohit Sharma and a much younger Virat Kohli. Both right handers scored terrific hundreds to place their side strongly at 371 for 6 while maintaining a high run rate of 4.16 at stumps on the opening day of the 4-day match in Hyderabad!
Ricky Ponting’s four pacers did alright but he couldn’t afford to have them bowl long spells in a tour match. The Board President’s XI which is being led by Yuvraj Singh won the toss and decided to bat first on a good batting track that was devoid of any real movement. A solid start came from Test discards Wasim Jaffer and Akash Chopra until both failed to convert into a bigger one. But they atleast saw the early threat for a while. Stuart Clark gave the opening for the tourists as he got Jaffer (25 from 56 with 4 fours) hooking one straight to fine leg and then Mitchell Johnson got one to bend back and strike Chopra’s (Akash Chopra scored 19 from 31 with 2 fours) back pad infront of the offstump. The solid opening start became 49 for 2 in no time and became 59 for 3 when Badrinath (2) was wrongly adjudged lbw to a delivery that came back sharply from fast bowler Peter Siddle.
The Board’s team could fightback from that bad situation through some exciting strokeplay from Skipper Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma. Both had to initially see off some tight spells but they came in their own once the bowlers lost their direction and lengths ever so slightly. However, Yuvraj Singh’s pathetic luck continued and this time he got himself out in a bizarre fashion. Mitchell Johnson outsmarted him by bowling a much slower bouncer and Yuvraj was too early in going for a pull but eventually decided to take evasive action. The left hander was thus caught in two minds and with Johnson angling the ball into the left hander, the ball did make a soft contact with the bat to fly into the slip cordon. Yuvraj made 29 from 47 balls with 5 fours while adding 61 for the 4th wicket.
It looked that the Board’s team was anyway going to be bowled out as Virat Kohli, the next batsman looked shaky against the short pitch stuff. But the youngster showed his guts by sticking there and allowing Rohit Sharma to unleash his full range of shots. What was looking to be another 50-run partnership blossomed into a huge one and the two youngsters made their stay counted by getting the necessary three figures. Rohit Sharma was finally dismissed by Johnson as he went for a hook shot in the 65th over but not before punishing the bowlers with his 105 (from 144 balls with 12 fours and 4 sixes). Rohit put on 146 for the 5th wicket. Virat Kohli had to exit a few minutes before close when he got a rough lbw decision off the bowling of Bret Lee. Kohli also made 105 and amazingly faced almost the same number of balls that Rohit did. To be precise he played two more than Rohit and his innings had 14 fours and a six. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli made a mockery of Australia’s lone frontline spinner – Jason Krekza, who was taken for 123 runs in his 20 overs of off spin. The 25-year-old Krekza was too nervous which is something that is not associated with an Aussie Cricketer. The offie never ever got his lengths right and he dished out some ordinary full tosses, long hops and half volleys through his spell. In a way by having him to bowl 20 overs helped the Board team to get where they were at the end of the day’s play.
By the close of play, Wicket Keeper batsman Parthiv Patel enjoyed himself with an unbeaten 49 with 7 fours (from 71 balls) and has Irfan Pathan, who is on 17 (from 25 balls with a four). The Board President’s XI team did make India proud by putting up 371 for 6 in the 89 overs and now one has to see if spinners Piyush Chawla and Pragyan Ojha make the visitors struggle with the bat or not. The pitch though looks good but the odd one is stopping and that could be the key for the spinners.