THERE was no major reaction from Mark Gillespie the first time it happened. Nor on the second occasion for that matter. But as he turned at the top of his mark to commence his sprint towards the crease to find Manprit Juneja still not in ready position,the temperamental New Zealand quickie seemed to have had enough.
He ran in at full tilt but rather than gather his way towards the delivery stride,Gillespie kept going till he had reached within inches of Juneja. And he stood there,eye to eye mouthing a few choice words at the young India A batsman.
To his credit,Juneja stood his ground,smiled back and went back to his stance. Gillespie now ran in with renewed energy buoyed by his attempt at intimidation and bent his back. Juneja though had been hardly fazed by the bullying. And he provided the perfect response,standing tall and punching the length delivery through the covers.
The fleet-footed New Zealand fielders kept the young Gujarat batsmen to just a couple of runs. Two balls later,he smacked a similar delivery,this time to the left of the mid-off fielder and to the extra cover fence. Gillespie wasted no time in turning around and returning to his mark on this occasion.
As the umpires brought an overcast Day Two to an early finish owing to bad light,Juneja had cruised along to 43 not out and taken India A to 94/2 in response to the visitors mighty 437 that theyd amassed thanks to Doug Bracewells 96 earlier in the day.
The Kiwi fast bowler,known otherwise for his temper tantrums,though could only shrug his shoulders and continue with his job at hand. All of 23 and with just a couple of first-class seasons up his sleeve,Juneja,who had been hit in the ribs while positioned at short-leg during New Zealand As innings,had stood up to a seasoned campaigner a decade older and ended up with bragging rights.
Getting under the skin
A few overs later,he even managed to get under the skin of a few more Kiwis with his intentional slowing down of the game with constant bat and glove changes. Post stumps,he even took great pride in having succeeded in his mental battle with the opposition.
Juneja didnt do too badly in terms of his run-scoring either,leaning in off the back-foot and cracking a few delectable square-drives,with easy-on-the-eye elegance. He then cover-drove with panache,striking back-to-back fours off Bracewell. VA Jagadeesh proved a gritty ally,grinding his runs out at the other end after Unmukt Chand,who failed again,and Vijay Zol had perished to loose shots outside their off-stump.
The Juneja-Jagadeesh partnership brought some solace to the hosts on a day that had till then been dominated by Bracewell,with the bat on this occasion. The burly all-rounder combined together with leg-spinner Ish Sodhi to take the insipid India A bowlers to task,cutting and slog-sweeping with consummate ease.
Bracewell unfortunately ended up one run short of equalling his highest first-class score and four short of a maiden ton,while Sodhi stroked his way to 57,the two adding 162 for the ninth wicket. The third days play will be about India A trying to get close to the massive total in front of them.
And having displayed an imperious character under the pump on Tuesday,Juneja will be looking to hog the spotlight with an equally imperious score.
Brief Scores: New Zealand A 1st innings 437 (D Bracewell 96,I Sodhi 57; D Kulkarni 3/53) India A 94/2 (V Jagadeesh 40 not out,M Juneja 43 not out; Mark Gillespie 1/11)