India gear up for Aussie challenge

Sachin Tendulkar and co spent valuable time at the National Cricket Academy on Saturday ahead of the first Test against Australia.

Bangalore: The 15-strong Indian squad for the Tests versus Australia began its three-day camp at the National Cricket Academy on Saturday. Virender Sehwag entered the stadium wearing spectacles and began with Murali Vijay at about the same time his erstwhile opening partner was compiling a century against the Australians in Chennai.Sachin Tendulkar (R) and Virender Sehwag. (File Photo).

Captaining India 'A' in a three-day practice game ahead of the first Test, discarded opener Gautam Gambhir tided over the spells of fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle to compile 112, putting himself back into contention for the last two Tests.

The MS Dhoni-led India will host Australia for a four-match series from February 22, with the opening game to be played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

Back in Bangalore, the third opener in the squad, Shikhar Dhawan, was noticeable for his aggression, using his feet to Ravi Ashwin and tonking Ashok Dinda disrespectfully.

Cheteshwar Pujara showed his class playing straight to Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Irfan Pathan and L Balaji, pacers on the road to recovery, also had an extended bowling session against the Indian line up.

Sachin Tendulkar divided his time on the field between batting in the middle, batting in nets and sprints with his pads on. Just as he had in the Irani Cup, Tendulkar toyed with left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and scooped a local bowler back over his head and over the ropes.

The batsmen - Tendulkar, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat kohli - then took turns to deposit Harbhajan Singh in the stands.

The off-spinner, on comeback, was pummeled by just about everybody. Harbjhan's first ball to Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a full toss, which was dutifully dispatched. An Ashwin drive late on the afternoon caught Harbhajan sharply on the thigh, but was not cause for serious concern.

Jadeja, meanwhile, was insistent on sending each delivery to the fence. He almost succeeded, but gave up his wicket to the spinners on a few occasions. His competitors for the No.6 spot were concurrently presenting cases for themselves down under.

Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary scored an identical 77 against the Australians in Chennai, poking out their heads to join the likes of Jadeja, Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina for the crucial position in India's Test team.

A minor fire that broke out due to an ongoing welding procedure on the first floor at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium was promptly put out and caused no deterrence to the cricket practice.