The opening day of the Melbourne Test on Sunday had a delayed start due to rain, and, an early closure owing to bad light. Australia, put in to bat, was on 138 for 3 off 48 overs. As in the first of this three-Test Series, India chose to play only four genuine bowlers in Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Ajit Agarkar and Anil Kumble in this second Test of the series. The dampness of the wicket prompted Sachin Tendulkar to field first and Srinath gave a rousing start by removing Greg Blewett and Justin Langer by the 3rd ball of the 11th over.
Tendulkar effected bowling changes quite imaginatively and the bowlers responded in the desired fashion. But they just could not drive home the early advantage given by Srinath. Lack of variety in the attack was mainly responsible for India allowing the third wicket pair of Michael Slater and Mark Waugh to make a steady progress. The pair added 95 runs before Ajit Agarkar came up with a beautiful in-cutter to mesmerise Mark Waugh.
He was trapped leg before the wicket (123 for 3). Mark Waugh, who has been longing to get into his customary style of batting, looked determined to achieve that today. He, of course, was not in his usual fluent mood but his steadfastness suited his team on this day. At stumps, Slater (64 not out) and skipper Steve Waugh (5 not out) were together when badlight stopped play. In the morning, rain had consumed the entire first session of play. Srinath bowled a superb first spell today. He saw Kumble at gully dropping a simple catch from Blewett in the very first over.
Srinath made Kumble heave a sigh of relief in his second over. Blewett, while dealing with a well-directed inswinger, became impulsive. The ball got an inner edge of the bat and shattered the stumps. Then in his sixth over, Srinath got Justin Langer leg before. Langer who got a doubtful decision in the first Test (Adelaide) looked disappointed today as he walked back to the pavilion. Whether Langer was upset over the decision or was cursing himself could not be assessed. During the spirited association of Slater and Mark Waugh, the Indian bowlers tried all their known tricks to break the partnership.
Even the part-time bowler Sourav Ganguly was introduced for just 2 overs. Ganguly, known as a bowler who could effect a breakthrough, did not make much impression on the two batsmen. Till Agarkar came up with that excellent delivery to remove Waugh, it appeared that India would suffer a lot in the absence of one more full-time bowler. India dropped opener Debang Gandhi for this Test. So VVS Laxman will open the innings with Sadagopan Ramesh.
Hrishikesh Kanitkar made his Test debut today. The truncated opening day has thus left the teams to make a lot of homework. The Australian batting line-up is famous for its tenacity. The Indian attack possesses two classy bowlers in Srinath and Kumble. Agarkar looked brilliant today. Will the Indian attack emerge with greater ideas on Monday to prevent Australia from taking absolute control of the proceedings? Remember in the Adelaide Test, the home team rallied to 441 from 52 for four.