Chennai: Stung by his exclusion from the Test squad, Gautam Gambhir replied in the best possible manner by hitting a sparkling century as he guided India A to a comfortable 338 for four against Australia on the opening day of their second and final warm-up game in Chennai on Saturday.
Riding on Gambhir's 112 alongwith solid half-centuries from Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary, India A batsmen dominated the proceedings for the better part of the 90 overs at the Guru Nanak College ground.
En route his 33rd first-class century, Gambhir faced 162 deliveries hitting 13 fours and three sixes. Rohit was fluent during his innings of 77 while Tiwary, who recently made a comeback in competitive cricket after injury lay-off, also looked good for a big one as he was batting on 77.
For Australia, left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty staked a claim for a place in the playing XI of the first Test by claiming three for 69.
The day, however, belonged to Gambhir, who was certainly egged up for the occasion and it looked as if the selection committee's decision of dropping him really spurred the seasoned left-hander as he batted with a lot of purpose.
Opting to bat, Gambhir and find of the Ranji season Jiwanjyot Singh (24) saw off the first hour and half without much difficulty.
Gambhir especially was watchful against the trio of left-arm pacer Mitchell Starc (0/36) and the dangerous Peter Siddle (0/30). He tried to cut down on the dab shot that had brought his downfall but did punish the loose deliveries occasionally when the pacers were in operation.
Jiwanjyot was dismissed by Doherty after an opening stand of 67 but Gambhir found an able ally in Rohit as they added 127 runs for the second wicket.
Once the spinners were introduced, Gambhir was at his majestic best. Whether it was Nathan Lyon (0/97) in 20 overs or rookie left-arm spinner Ashton Agar (0/78 in 13 overs), Gambhir took them to task by using his feet brilliantly.
Both Gambhir and Rohit earmarked Agar as the weak link among the spinners as he was repeatedly lofted for over boundaries.
It turned out to be a satisfactory outing for Rohit also as he flopped badly in the Irani Cup game failing to reach double digits in both innings. He hit eight fours and three sixes in 144 balls and was severe on Agar, repeatedly carting him to every corner of the ground.
Gambhir was finally dismissed on 112 when he was caught by Shane Watson off back-up seamer Moises Henriques' bowling. However, by the time he was gone, the 31-year-old left-hander had done what he had set out for.
Rohit was joined by Tiwary, who took some time to settle down but then played some delightful strokes to show that he is slowly and surely getting back to his full fitness.
The Bengal captain hit 12 boundaries and a six during his 112-ball knock and will be eagerly waiting to complete his century on Day 2.
Rohit should blame himself for missing out on a well-deserved three-figure mark as he was caught by glovesman Matthew Wade off Doherty's bowling. Rohit-Tiwary duo added 71 runs for the third wicket.
Abhishek Nayar, who has the most unusual batting stance in domestic cricket, started off with a boundary but continued his failure at the big stage as he became Doherty's third victim of the day giving a catch to close-in fielder Ed Cowan.
Tiwary was joined by another in-form man in Karnataka glovesman CM Gautam as they added 66 runs for the unfinished fifth wicket stand.
At stumps, Gautam raced his way to 34 with five boundaries and has proved to be an ideal foil for Tiwary.
The Australian spinners proved to be disappointing as the trio of Gambhir, Rohit and Tiwary milked the bowling with consumate ease.
The Aussie spin troika of Lyon, Doherty and Agar conceded 244 runs in their 49 overs which is an indication of the struggle that they will face at the Chepauk track which is known to be low and slow in nature.