Chennai, Feb. 13 -- Australia got the first taste of spin on Tuesday and by the end of it, it had left a bitter taste in the mouth. The tourists had to contend with two spinners, not with the greatest of reputations, but even then Parvez Rassol and Sarabjit Ladda had enough fire in their armoury to trouble the Aussies.
On Day One of their two-day warm-up game against the Board President's XI, the Aussies - even though they were without four frontline batsmen - looked out of sorts and were bowled out for 241.
The wicket at the Guru Nanak College Ground wasn't a wild turner, but the visitors failed to apply themselves against some accurate bowling from the spinners. Much of their focus in the run-up to the first Test, starting on February 22, will be to get accustomed to spin bowling.
Tuesday presented an opportunity but their lack of confidence against spin was palpable as off-spinner Rassol ran through the line up with figures of 7-45 in 28.3 overs.
There was a conscious effort from the Australia batsmen to use the sweep shot and feet against the spinners -- two weapons they think will work for them on this trip.
Ed Cowan and Usman Khawaja began confidently against the pacers but once Board XI skipper Abhinav Mukund tossed the ball to the spinners, they seemed to lose the plot. Khawaja was only interested in sweeping the spinners, a couple of top edges off Rassol fell in vacant areas, but the third one off Ladda's fourth delivery landed straight into mid-wicket's hands.
Cowan looked the most assured of the lot, completing his half century before he edged Rassol behind the wicket. Stand-in skipper Matthew Wade and the rest showed little application as they slumped from 170/4 at tea. Former Australia batsmen Dean Jones had asked them to stick to the motto: "If you lose patience... you will lose the battle!," and the Aussies will have to emphasise on this now.
Cowan was happy with time spent in the middle and defended the approach of his team-mates. "It was almost as though the most dangerous shot was the forward defence. You had to find a way to get to the other end and get in a position to score runs. If you're propped on the crease defending, then you're playing into the spinners' hands. I think the guys who scored runs found a way to hit the ball, rather than just defend," he reasoned.
The left-hander, despite a decent record in 13 Tests, is uncertain of partnering David Warner at the top with Shane Watson's return from injury.
With Warner, Watson, Philip Hughes and skipper Michael Clarke not available for the match, the focus was on him and Cowan did no harm to his chances of playing in the first Test. "It didn't feel like I needed to seal the deal," said Cowan, asked if he is under pressure to seal the opening slot. "The talk is in the press and not in the changing room. I was happy that I could spend time at the crease."
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.