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Hodge rewrites record
- TOUR-OPENER - Victoria declare at 518/8, minutes before; Tie ends in a draw

Melbourne: Victoria piled on a massive 518 for eight, built around a record 264 by Brad Hodge. And the Indians were left with a lot of soul-searching to do as the tour opener ended in a draw on the third and final day on Thursday.

With Victoria deciding to bat through the third day before declaring minutes before tea, the Indians hardly had time to make up for their earlier lapses.

In fact, the first innings disaster returned to haunt India as they lost two wickets, including that of Virender Sehwag (20), before making 116 for two.

Ramesh, who hit 87 in the first innings, hit 36 while Akash Chopra remained unbeaten on 55. Chopra, who hit two fours in an Andrew McDonald over, reached his half-century off 112 balls hit eight fours. Rahul Dravid, coming in at the fall of Ramesh, remained not out on one.

It was Hodge who continued to hog the limelight at the MCG, rewriting the record books while compiling 264 — studded with 39 fours and a six. The day clearly belonged to Hodge, who made the highest ever score by an Australian batsman against a touring side in a first class game in 75 years. Hodge’s innings was second only to Bill Woodfull’s 275 for Victoria against MCC on the 1928-29 tour.

Only two scores have been bigger than Hodge’s against India in any form of cricket in the last 14 years. Graham Gooch had struck 333 in the Lord’s Test in 1990. Then Sanath Jayauriya made a hectic 340 in Colombo in 1997.

There was also some drama in the final half hour when the Victorians wanted to walk off with six overs left. The Indian batsmen decided to stay put with no signal coming from the dressing room. Obviously the Indians, chafed at Victoria’s continuation of their innings this morning, were eager to make their own point. They, however, decided to call it off with an over remaining.

Resuming at his overnight 153 in the team total of 348 for five, Hodge batted for 500 minutes for his 380-ball knock. He completed two century stands — 171 for the sixth wicket with Ian Harvey (71) and 135 for the seventh with skipper Cameron White .

The Victorians not only smashed the confidence of Indian bowlers but also forced a second failure on Sehwag, who fell leg before to Brett Harrop for 20.

Hodge showed no signs of tiredness as he tore into the Indian bowling this morning, hitting 111 of the 170 runs scored from 44 busy overs on Thursday.

A thickish edge off a drive against part-time off-spinner Sehwag finally did him in. The ball went high and landed in the hands of Dravid in the slips.

The other two wickets that came India’s way were of Harvey and White. While Harvey fell to a questionable leg before decision off Laxmipathy Balaji, White nibbled at an away going delivery from Zaheer Khan to give the left-arm paceman his first wicket of the match.

When India finally got to bat, Sehwag hit a few flashing drives before another failure. Ramesh and Chopra looked in complete control before the left-hander hooked a catch in the deep.

India captain Sourav Ganguly said it was common for a visiting side to feel the blues in the first game on the Australian tour. “It is the first game of the tour and teams do take time to settle down,” Sourav said.

“The bowlers sometimes bowled a good line and at other times were too short but it can happen to a team playing its first game in Australia.”

Sourav chose to overlook Victoria’s decision to continue their innings late on the third day. “There is no surprise in what they did today. They also obviously wanted to give as much time as possible to Brad Hodge to improve his chances for Test selection.” (PTI)

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