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Doggedness keeps Oz afloat

cricket Updated: Oct 31, 2008 23:46 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
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The scorecard suggests that not very much happened to take this match forward for the Indians, but in truth the third day of the third Test was one filled with possibilities.

Ricky Ponting got close to his 37th Test century, Matthew Hayden was on the way to playing his first innings of meaning on this visit, Anil Kumble continued the search for his first wicket of the tour and amidst all this, Virender Sehwag emerged as the unlikely enforcer.

Australia scored freely, riding their luck on a pitch where the odd ball turned sharply and reached 338 for 4, but were still not completely out of the woods.

Simon Katich and Hayden had laid the base on Thursday, and had quickly concluded that there was little point in trying merely to survive at the crease. When the ball did not land in the rough it came through perfectly to be met by bat, and the two left-handers drove relentlessly, finding the gaps more often than not.

There were runs to be had and Katich, who is usually quite subdued, looked to fill his boots. Perhaps this very attitude caused his downfall as a delightfully tossed up legbreak from Amit Mishra landed in the rough and broke sharply in to power through the gap between bat and pad to knock out the middle stump. Katich (64) was beaten comprehensively in the air and once Mishra landed the ball in the rough the pitch did the rest.

Ponting can be a shaky starter against spin but he showed none of his vulnerability. To be fair, India's bowlers were in the middle of a phase where they struggled to apply the pressure, conceding more boundaries than the captain - himself guilty at times - would have liked.

Even a swarm of bees flying low over the ground did not cause much grief, beyond an amusing break when the players and umpires lay flat on the ground waiting for the stingers to pass.

When Hayden clipped Mishra to short midwicket, where Kumble had stationed himself, and got a hand to a tough chance, a second disruption in play happened. Kumble, who sustained a cut half an inch deep, was bleeding profusely and had to rush off the field. Sehwag, who had already bowled one spell of five overs, had to step in and fill the breach, and he did so admirably.

Hayden (83) was the first to suffer when he defended from the crease and missed, being hit just above the kneeroll. Sehwag was convinced he had his man and Billy Bowden agreed.

Ponting then took over, with Michael Hussey bedding down and picking off the loose balls without taking any chances. Once again, just as a partnership was building, Sehwag produced a beauty. Ponting (87) was drawn well forward, beaten in the air, and the ball turned in perfectly to take the top of off stump. It was a classic offspinner's dismissal and a wicket that could not have come sooner for India.

Just as before in the day another partnership developed, this one worth 42 on top of earlier stands of 123, 79, 82, before Sehwag claimed his third victim. Hussey (53) saw Sewhag come around the stumps and when a ball drifted in towards leg stump, the batsman came forward in watchful defence. Again, though, the deceptive revolutions Sehwag put on the ball ensured it did enough to just elude bat and peg back the off stump.

Michael Clarke, who has been at his worst in the last hour of play on earlier occasions in this tour, was beaten, edged and narrowly escaped being trapped in front, but somehow managed to escape being dismissed.

Shane Watson was with him when play ended with Australia still 275 behind. India's bowlers showed what could be achieved through purposeful bowling and application, picking up four top-order wickets on a luckless day.