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Clarke dares India to set a target

cricket Updated: Nov 01, 2008 22:43 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
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There's a contest on within the contest. The on-field struggle apart, India and Australia are on the lookout for opportunities to prove that the other is defensive.

India have already done it a few times, and Australia finally got their chance on Saturday when India sent out Ishant Sharma as the night watchman to see off the last couple of overs following Virender Sehwag's dismissal.

"I think Australia is the only team that will try to win the match from here on. India are on the defensive now, evident by the fact that they sent out a night watchman," said vice-captain Michael Clarke.

The middle-order batsmen, riding high on confidence after a gritty century, threw a challenge of sorts by declaring that India wouldn't declare. "I don't think it's going to happen. They made their intentions clear by sending out a night watchman. Anyway, we are going to attack hard and bowl them out," he said.

India coach, Gary Kirsten, however, didn't agree with Clarke's observation. "I think sending out a night watchman has been a fairly old and common practice. There aren't many batsmen who would like to go out late in the day for a brief period. So, I don't think it reflects a defensive approach," he said.

Kirsten, however, admitted it would be tough to force a result. "We would first push ourselves to a position of strength tomorrow and then see how it goes. But then the wicket is playing really well and it's not easy to take wickets," he said.

That the wicket is still good for batting is surprising, considering it spun viciously towards the close of play on Friday when Virender Sehwag left the top Aussies batsmen clueless. He had hoped the wicket would deteriorate in the middle as well and not only on the periphery, making it tough for the Aussies to survive.

But that didn't happen, and the bowlers had to continuously look for the footmarks to make the ball behave oddly. "Yes, the wicket has been good to bat on. Though there's some spin, we hope it spins more on the morrow and there is more inconsistent bounce for our quick bowlers," said Clarke.

But that looks quite improbable.