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Don't miss this: It is cricket at its best

Sachin Tendulkar's sixth double century gave the crowd reason to cheer, but it was two batting collapses that breathed life into a Test match that seemed destined for a draw. Anand Vasu reports. The stats have it! | Scorecard | Smell of victory

cricket Updated: Oct 13, 2010 01:41 IST
Anand Vasu
Anand Vasu
Hindustan Times
Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar's sixth double century gave the crowd reason to cheer, but it was two batting collapses that breathed life into a Test match that seemed destined for a draw.

If there has been one trend that has dominated this series, it is this: just as one team seems to gain a firm grip on the match, it relinquishes it in the face of stubborn resistance from the opposition.

When the fourth day's play began with Tendulkar on 191, the question was not so much whether he would get to 200, but whether he could — in a year where he made an ODI double-century — score his first triple hundred.

As is so often the case, the double century was hard enough to come by, a desperately scampered single telling you just how much it meant to the little man.

But the triple century would have to wait for another day as 23-year-old Peter George, the two-metre tall fast bowler making his debut, got a delivery to tail in late with the aid of reverse swing, and Tendulkar's attempted drive resulted in an inside edge back into the stumps.

After spending over nine hours at the crease for 214, Tendulkar was gone, unable to even better his Test-best of 248*, made against Bangladesh in 2004-05.

When Tendulkar fell, India had 486, and a negligible lead of eight runs, and a notional advantage, but this was quickly rendered meaningless as the tail waved the white flag and the last five wickets fell for the addition of just nine runs.

Having been allowed back into the game, Australia's openers made quick work of the 17-run deficit, and could have made life tricky for the Indians. But Shane Watson was deceived by Pragyan Ojha's flight to be trapped in front and Simon Katich felt for Harbhajan outside the off and provided MS Dhoni with a catch.

Michael Clarke's nightmare tour of India ended in embarrassment as he stretched fully forward to play a defensive shot against Ojha, carelessly leaving his crease. Quick to spot the opportunity, Dhoni had the bails off in a flash.

Mike Hussey was unhappy to be sent packing next, adjudged lbw to an Ojha delivery he felt he had played and replays suggested it might have been missing leg stump.

Marcus North, whose gritty century revived Australia in the first innings, came completely unstuck against Harbhajan, playing neither forward nor fully back to a full delivery that dipped late and turned enough to make a mess. At 131 for 5, Australia had handed the game back to India.

Through all the carnage, Ricky Ponting quietly enhanced his reputation, driving assuredly and defending with purpose. When Ponting (72) was trapped in front by Zaheer in the fading light, and Tim Paine feathered an edge to the keeper, Australia slumped to 202 for 7 at close.

Three wickets and a tricky run chase stand between India and a historic 2-0 clean sweep.