In first over, a first by an Indian spinner
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No Indian spinner, however venerated, had ever bowled the first over of a Test match from a short run-up. Until Friday. Plenty in the past — such as Salim Durrani, Sunil Gavaskar and ML Jaisimha, to name a few — had done so bowling seam-ups, but none with a tweak to their release. Pragyan Ojha, before the toss at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, perhaps never knew this stat — or that he would pioneer this cause.
The left-arm spinner bowled a tight leg-side line, and New Zealand opener Martin Guptill, fending and punching balls more out of shock than instinct, scored no runs off it. This moment set the precedent for a most intriguing day of Test cricket, where mind-games and brave calls played a role as distinct as spin or seam.
"I was very surprised to see Ojha with the ball, to be honest. I had prepared mentally for Zaheer," said Guptill at the end of a satisfying day's play for him. "I got some interesting balls early on, but we managed to see through it."
Interesting, it sure was. With five more dot balls the following Ojha over, Guptill looked edgy, if not worried. Then, off the last ball, the seam snicked the big Kiwi's bat and he managed to open his account with a streaky two.
"I found out after they chose to bat, and Dhoni bhai was very clear that I was going to open the bowling. I was ready for it," Ojha said. And how did he go about it? "I was just sticking to the basics and making him play every ball."
He did. Now clearly desperate, Guptill played, missed, plodded and blocked at four more in Ojha's third, with his score now reading 2 off 16, all to spin. But as push came to shove, Guptill danced down the track and picked a tossed up one to hammer inside-out over extra-covers. Four runs had broken a very tight leash.