Clarke passes Bradman thanks to umpire error

Nanjing Night Net

CHENNAI: India refuse to budge on the vexed issue of umpiring technology, and their distrust is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Their stubborn opposition to the decision-review system, however, has already come back to bite them in the first Test against Australia.If there was one batsman they did not want to be let off the hook at the MA Chidambaram Stadium it was Michael Clarke.Far and away the world’s most untouchable scorer of runs during an unforgettable 2012 he has proven time and again – via three double centuries and a triple in one calendar year – that when he gets a start, he is difficult to stop.A 23rd Test century, and third in India, proved him as good as anyone against spin, with the footwork of a tap dancer.  The Australian captain’s reprieve came on Friday just before tea when, on 39, he appeared to be caught, via an inside edge, at short leg by Cheteshwara Pujura. He was given not out by Sri Lankan umpire Kumar Dharmasena, a decision that soon after was confirmed as horribly wrong by replays and a Snicko reading that showed up so clearly it was as if Clarke had clubbed the ball out of the ground.MS Dhoni, India’s captain, had no avenue for review, as is the case throughout this series. Their own choice, they can have no complaint.However, the Clarke let-off hurt more deeply as he and an impressive Moises Henriques (68), on Test debut, produced a resurrection mission on a first innings in which Australia had fallen from an enterprising 2-126 to be languishing at 5-153. The pair put on 151 together, and while India struck again late, a day-one total of 7-316 was decidedly more healthy than it might have been.Ravichandran Ashwin, the tall off-spinner who learnt his craft with a tennis ball on the streets of Chennai, was the bowler who was cost Clarke’s wicket by the umpiring blunder. It would have been his and the team’s sixth of the day, having already secured a five-wicket haul in a session and a bit as he frightened the life out of Australia’s middle order. He would get his half dozen later on, claiming 6-88, but he might well trade them all in for Clarke.”It was quite clear for me he hit the ball, that’s why we all went up,” Ashwin said. “At the end of the day it does happen, the umpire used to be an off-spinner himself.”Henriques added: “I actually thought ‘what are these guys appealing for?’ To me at first glance and the umpire must have thought it because we were only a metre away from each other, it looked like it just glanced his thigh pad and went up. But then once I saw the big screen it was a slightly different opinion. We didn’t really speak about it out in the middle but after he had a look at the replay at the tea break I think he realised he was a little bit lucky.”It was not Clarke’s first win of the day. Victory at the toss – the word ‘bat’ could not come out of his mouth fast enough – was just as important.  Batting third on this south Indian dustbowl, against a coterie of hungry spinners, could be difficult enough. Chasing even 100 to win in the final innings would have been about as easy as a foreigner driving a hire car in Chenani peak hour.If Ashwin’s success was not plain enough, the ground staff’s activities in the session breaks spelled out just how specially prepared this pitch was for India’s three spinners. Armed with straw brooms, they swept the red soil deck at length, emitting a large plume of orange dust with each pointless swipe. The only sign of life on it for the last fortnight were the odd grass clippings sprinkled on the deck like coriander leaves on a stir fry.Australia will try their own luck with reverse swing and variable bounce when they take the ball, and there was plenty of the latter around on day one to inspire encouragement.Ashwin had a bowling average of 52 in India’s series defeat to England last year but on his home track was a different performer, particularly in an almost unplayable period just after lunch. He trapped Shane Watson for 28 with the fourth ball of the session, then in his next over, had David Warner beaten on 59, also leg-before, ending a smart innings from the Australian opener – his fifth Test fifty in six innings.Australia were in strife until Clarke stepped in, as is almost custom these days, and saved the day, in the process surpassing 7000 Test runs and Sir Donald Bradman’s career tally.He was ably supported by Henriques, whose selection was wholly justified by a mature half-century ended shortly before stumps, by Ashwin.Clarke reached three figures once again with a straight drive for four right on stumps. If it seemed the wicket was less hostile for him than the rest that was misleading. In reality, his batting was just better.

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