The slow and the unsteady

Last week, against the Board President's XI, the Australians had been bowled out for under 250 at the IC Guru Nanak College ground, nine of their ten wickets falling to spin. In their first innings at the same venue against India A, the Australians once again fell short of 250, and once again lost nine out of ten wickets to spin. Five fell to Gujarat left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhurv, four to Madhya Pradesh offie Jalaj Saxena. The visitors drew the three-day game, their last warm-up match before the Test series, but only after being made to follow on. They made a better fist of their second innings to finish on 195/3, with openers Shane Watson and Ed Cowan making half-centuries.

The Aussies began Day Three 131 for four in their first innings, having lost four wickets for their last 11 runs the previous evening. The overnight pair of Matthew Wade and Moises Henriques took their partnership to 49 before Dhurv trapped the latter in front to take his third wicket. Henriques had been by far the dominant partner in the fifth-wicket stand, striking two fours and three sixes in a 41-ball 33.

After that, India A took less than 17 overs to run through the remainder of the Australians' innings, with Wade who was the only batsman to face over 100 balls last out for 44 (103b. At that point, the tourists had lost 18 wickets and scored 247 runs against the spinners, over their two warm-up games, at an average of 13.72.

Manoj Tiwary had already questioned the Australians' ability against spin. Now, Dhurv joined in. "They don't play spinners too well, which benefitted us," Dhurv said. "The wicket was a slow turner. Their primary deficiency was in defence. They also, at times, failed to judge the speed of the deliveries."

By the end of Day Three, the Australians improved their tour average against the spinners to 19.95. The slow men bowled 48 of the Australians' 55 second-innings overs even if part-timers Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary bowled 14 of those overs and only picked up two wickets, one apiece to Dhurv (who took the new ball) and Saxena.

Watson and Cowan had put on 116 in the first innings, and proceeded to share another century stand for the Australians. Watson was the more aggressive of the two, and struck nine fours and a six in his 63-ball 60 before he was run out in the 22nd over. With two half centuries in the match, at strike rates approaching a run-a-ball he scored 144 runs in 150 deliveries across his two innings Watson would have been pleased with his form going into the first Test. So too Cowan who fell four overs later whose three innings on the tour so far have fetched him scores of 58, 40 and 53. The duo might walk in together at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, with the injured David Warner a doubtful starter.

Phil Hughes put on 44 with Usman Khawaja before he was out for 19, bowled by Dhurv. Khawaja (30*, 85b, 3x4) and Wade (19*, 42b, 1x4) saw out the remainder of the overs.

Brief scores: Australia 235 in 62.3 overs (S Watson 84, M Wade 44, E Cowan 40; R Dhurv 5/51, J Saxena 4/61) & 195/3 in 55 overs (S Watson 60, E Cowan 53) vs Ind 'A' 451

Dhoni skips practice on final day of camp

Bangalore: The Indian team wound up their three-day training camp ahead of the upcoming Test series with a two-and-a-half-hour long net session. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, however, decided to oversee it rather than actually taking part in it.

Tendulkar batted for 45 minutes with three different bats and facing these bowlers at different nets. Harbhajan batted for nearly one hour and rolled his arms over only towards the end of the session. Even tailenders Ojha, Dinda and Ishant spent a fair bit of time batting at the nets. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men leave for Chennai on Tuesday for the first Test starting on February 22.


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