After a rousing start, India lost its way and reached the land of despair. That was precisely the tale of the first day of the Adelaide Test on Friday. Playing a giant of a side like Australia that too in Australia demands a lot of planning. India fielded just four quality bowlers for this game, and, paid dearly for that.
From a nasty 52 for four, the home team rose to a highly respectable closing score of 298 for five. Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble are no doubt bowlers belonging to international class. Ajit Agarkar, who has recovered from an injury, is certainly a game trier. But this combination of attack proved not enough to create any sort of panic in a team like Australia that is well equipped in all departments of the game.
In the absence of a fifth quality bowler, India just could not apply sustained pressure to make the most of the early successes (four for 52). Ironically enough Sourav Ganguly was introduced as the fourth bowler this morning and he succeeded in his very first over. That however proved to be a flash in the pan. For, India needed a set of bowlers who could take complete command of the situation.
Thus the entire magnificent job done in the earlier overs by Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad went in vain. Srinath had removed Greg Blewett, the opener, in the 3rd over of the morning. Venkatesh Prasad, who replaced Agarkar to bowl the 10th over, got rid of Justin Langer in the seme over last ball. Then, after Ganguly had accounted for the dismissal of Michael Slater, Venkatesh Prasad struck again, this time finding the edge of Mark Waugh's blade (52 for 4).
At lunch Australia was on 76 for four in 27 overs. Australia during the three-Test Series against Pakistan last month had proved on a series of occasions that its middle order batsmen could pull it from all sorts of nasty holes. It must be remembered here that Pakistan attack possessed a greater variety than that of India. Men batting at number six and seven (Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist) gave a huge boost to the Australian batting strength.
And skipper Steve Waugh is a man who loves to deal with tricky situations. This season he has been suffering from a bad patch and must be longing to gain an ideal opportunity to get into his customary mood. So, when Ricky Ponting, who had made a marathon effort of 197 against Pakistan in Perth last month, joined Steve Waugh today at 52 for four, the Australian supporters must have been praying for a grand batting exhibition.
And their prayers were answered. Steve Waugh and Ponting, through some aggressive method of batting, exposed the limitations of the Indian attack. The pair could be separated only towards the end of the day after it had added 239 runs for the fifth wicket. That too it was a run out that separated the joint-heroes of the day. After driving Kumble through the covers, Steve Waugh and Ponting were seen at the same end of the wicket. Prasad removed the bails at the other end.