• India v Australia, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 1st day

Australia declare on first day despite batting failures

The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
March 2, 2013 « Djokovic completes Dubai dominance | Chartbeat test »
India 5 for 0 trail Australia 237 for 9 dec (Clarke 91, Wade 62, Jadeja 3-33, Bhuvneshar 3-53) by 232 runs
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Michael Clarke hit 91 for Australia © Getty Images
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Before the start of the match, the local organisers performed a religious ceremony in the middle and if, like bowlers around the world, they had asked for answers on how to dismiss Michael Clarke, they had no luck. Clarke was once again Australia's standout batsman, top scoring with 91, but the innings crumbled either side of his hold-it-together stand with Matthew Wade to leave India in control.

And if his batting wasn't enough to leave connoisseurs raving, Clarke sprang a surprising and enterprising declaration just before stumps - the first time a team had declared on the opening day since 1974 - to give his bowlers a shot at India.

The first day of the Hyderabad Test was a seesaw affair, with India dominant in the first and final sessions, and Australia unshakeable in the second. After tea, India's spinners again proved too difficult to read for the visiting batsmen, and the home side reclaimed the advantage after Clarke and Wade had levelled the game with a century stand. The pair had to do a repair job due to seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar's new-ball breakthroughs.

Bhuvneshwar had made his debut on a dustbowl in Chennai, the worst sort of surface for a quick bowler. He didn't even get to bowl in the second innings, and the speculation was that he could make way for left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha in this Test. Not only did he play, though, his skiddy bowling accounted for three top-order batsmen in the first session. Those strikes were his first wickets in Test cricket, and the first for an Indian seamer in this series.

The pitch was dry, there were puffs of dust when the ball bounced, and it had plenty of cracks that should excite the spinners as the match progresses. Ishant Sharma's first ball jumped off one of them and swerved dramatically away from Ed Cowan, but Ishant didn't pose much of a threat otherwise with the new ball.

Bhuvneshwar did all the damage, using his ability to get the ball to snake back towards the left-hand batsmen. David Warner inside-edged after looking to play across the line, and speculation over Cowan's place is set to resume after he was adjudged lbw for 4, though the ball pitched just outside leg.

Two potential contenders for Cowan's place, Shane Watson and Phillip Hughes, set about bringing some stability to the innings. Watson began by middling plenty of deliveries, while Hughes got going with boundaries in his favourite point area. The pair had been together for about an hour, when Watson misjudged how much a Bhuvneshwar delivery would bounce and attempted a powerful swipe to midwicket. He missed, and the stroke that served him so effectively in Twenty20s, left him looking like he lacked patience on the first morning of a Test.

Hughes had begun briskly, moving to 17 off 21, but was again skittish against spin, playing out several maidens to R Ashwin. He scored only two runs off his next 36 deliveries before being caught behind.

Facing another crisis, Clarke was in prime form, twinkle-toed as usual against the spinners and assured against the fast bowlers. There were two standout shots early on - a dance-down-the-track loft over Ashwin's head for six, and a clip off Bhuvneshwar for four that bisected two short midwickets.

Ashwin had looked good in the morning session, tossing the ball up and bowling accurately, waiting for the pitch to play its part instead of attempting too many variations too soon. Australia were helped as India held back Ashwin for more than an hour after the break, instead turning to Harbhajan Singh, who was again below his best.

It wasn't a flawless innings from Clarke. An edge off Bhuvneshwar dropped well short of the keeper, a surprise legcutter from Ishant confounded him, but the biggest chances were a close lbw shout on 32 that the umpire deemed to be sliding down and a drop on 52 as Cheteshwar Pujara put down a bat-pad chance at short leg.

While Clarke was all confidence right from the start, his partner Wade, who was deemed fit despite a suffering a cheek fracture on Friday, was more circumspect early on. Wade began to feel comfortable following a drive over mid-on off Harbhajan after almost an hour. He didn't sweep much, a shot that caused him problems in the first Test, and was harsh whenever the bowler dropped short, picking up several boundaries past point on his way to a half-century.

Just when Australia seemed to be capitalising on their decision to bat, things went awry. Wade slapped a short ball to a diving Bhuvneshwar at point, ending a 145-run partnership and starting a collapse. Moises Henriques was far less certain than he was in his debut Test, and was bowled by a peach from Ravindra Jadeja. Henriques was looking to play to the leg side but the turn beat the bat and hit the top of middle. The debutant Glenn Maxwell didn't last long either, edging behind for 13, and when Clarke missed a sweep to be bowled Australia had lost five wickets for 28 runs.

With the ball turning and bouncing, Clarke decided that the final pair wouldn't last too long and chose to test India's openers before stumps. There was no reward for the innovative move, though, as Virender Sehwag and M Vijay played out the final three overs.

The batting failure will hurt, but what made it worse for Clarke was that the changes Australia made meant their bowling was weaker than in the previous Test. Xavier Doherty, playing his first Test in two years, is the lead spinner instead of Nathan Lyon, and the two allrounders, Henriques and Maxwell, are both better batsmen than they are Test bowlers.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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