Stumps Day 1: Australia 9/256 (MT Renshaw 68, MA Starc 57*) v India (UT Yadav 4/32)
Losing the toss, India takes 9 wickets on Day 1, before MA Starc goes the long handle. Australia skids on take off. It’s a rare day that Australia’s top scorer is forced from the field suffering diahorrea. There’s something potent about the sub-continent.
Pune, south east of Mumbai. Hosting Test cricket.
Australia with two spinners, two quicks and two Marshes.
India with a long batting line up, spin, and undefeated at home for eons.
SPD Smith wins the toss and bats. Electing to lose in four days rather than in three, as I read on Twitter.
But DA Warner and MT Renshaw make a bright start. There will be key moments in these Tests, but there will be big picture graft, too. It’s a reasonably solid start, before DA Warner loses his wicket, and MT Renshaw loses control of his bowel.
DA Warner b UT Yadav 38 (1/82)
MT Renshaw retired hurt*
We are in a pretty dire situation. Jeff and I have travelled with Mum and Dad to Kathmandu for the incredible wedding of my sister to Utsav. If you ever get a chance to participate in a Hindu wedding in Kathmandu, Nepal, take it.
We have been in the country a week. Down every narrow alley, outside every shop festooned with goat carcasses, locals follow our progress. Sometimes they ask: “Where you from?” It is World Cup month. Cricket World Cup 2003, in South Africa. The diuretic World Cup. So whenever we answer: “Australia. We’re from Australia,” swarms of local Nepalese are around us, asking, calling, shouting “Rickyponting! Rickyponting!”
In a restaurant with Utsav’s friends, we are asked about the Australian Test team selection, about the limited over team selection, about the Victorian team selection. Cases are argued for the inclusion of someone from the Perth district scene into the Western Australian squad. “He make lots of runs.”
I am baffled. We are baffled. We are not representing Australia well.
And now, despite eating mainly plates only of steamed rice (“No, just the rice, thanks”), the two of us have been struck down. Laid low with the curse of the sub-continental runs.
Living as we do in a western hotel, access to toilet paper is no problem. In fact, the very toilet bowl, I am soon to learn, is a rare nod to our palatial if uncomfortable circumstances.
SE Marsh c Kohli b J Yadav 16 (2/119)
PSP Handscomb lbw b Jadeja 22 (3/149)
SPD Smith c Kohli b Ashwin 27 (4/149)
But today we are in trouble. Utsav has booked us seats on a local bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara. If you google that trip, you’ll find an estimated driving time of six hours. You may not find that the road is improbably carved through precipitous cliffs on either side. You may not learn of the wandering animal life. You may not find, either, mention of the tinny, treble-infused repetitive high-pitched music blaring through the speakers.
But all of these are a mere sideshow to the main event: how to survive a six-hour bus trip afflicted with the crippling, stomach-churning, butt-burning runs.
“Impossible!” many would day.
“Preposterous!” would say the rest.
And as Jeff and I sit in the early morning on that old school vinyl bench seat, we each reach and then surpass a hitherto unknown level of anxiety. A new top score.
“Oh jeez,” says Jeff, before we have even departed the Kathmandu terminal, and dashes back to the road side, scanning, scanning, desperately scanning for relief. The body language of this type of distress turns out to be universal. Locals usher him away, disappearing between a crowd, only to reappear a few minutes later, a changed man. Silent.
With sweat bursting from our brows, we hatch a plan. There were to be two rest stops along the way. Effectively a six hour trip with two rest stops.
“It’s like a day of Test cricket,” Jeff says.
“Great,” I say. “First target is to make it to lunch.”
And that’s what we do. We play and miss, we survive narrow scrapes, but all the while, we preserve our wickets. We speak of Marsh and Taylor at Nottingham in 1989, of batting through the day. It can be done. We have precedents.
It is desperate. We are locked in traffic in sprawling Kathmandu. We are boxed in by cows. We snake our way into the alarming hill country, tyres slipping on gravel. We clench.
But then, pulling in to Stop 1 without the loss of a wicket brings the high-end relief of high-fives and high elation. It is a job only partly done. We cannot relax. We cannot afford to relax. Dashing to the conveniences, I learn a lesson in the relativity of the word “conveniences.” A stained porcelain squat mocks my disdain.
But we make it to lunch. None for. One session down, two to come.
The second session is a blur of distorted vision and near-death experiences. Around every bend looms remarkably short odds on a plunge into a river valley. Around every bend looms the only too real chance of a wicket.
We are grafting now. Occupation of the crease has gotten no easier. But we are determined to survive to tea. Audible grunts are heard. Sweat pops. Brows furrow.
And look; we are there.
Tea break. We are off the still-rolling bus, and into the sweet, sweet squat.
Heaven never looked like this before.
MR Marsh lbw b Jadeja 4 (5/166)
MS Wade lbw b UT Yadav 8 (6/190)
MT Renshaw c Vijay b Ashwin 68 (7/196)
SNJ O’Keefe c Saha b UT Yadav 0 (8/205)
NM Lyon lbw b UT Yadav 0 (9/205)
MA Starc 57*, JR Hazlewood 1*
UT Yadav 4/32 from 12 overs
Stepping once more onto the old bus, for the final leg, we are weak and we are strong. We are groggy and we are determined. Around the death-defying edges of crumbling ravines we swerve, through inconceivable obstacles of traffic and detritus we plough on, and on. The Annapurna Range appears in snatches through the cloud. Houses, temples appear. Can we bat through the day? Can we make it?
The enormous expanse of Phewa Lake appears. We are Geoff Marsh and we are Mark Taylor. We are going to do it.
We bounce into the valley. And spot our accommodation.
“There it is!”
The bus brakes. Doors hiss open. And we are off.
Undefeated, raising our invisible bats to the non-existent crowd.
Imaginary applause carries us.
We can do anything.
With application, we can do anything.
*the sub-continental trots (you poor, poor man)
Full scoreboard from ESPNCricinfo link below: