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Going, Going..

Gautam Gambhir says as a cricketer, you want to do well in Tests... that’s why it’s a great feeling to score this century, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay. See graphics

cricket Updated: Oct 21, 2008 01:24 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Ricky Ponting fell to the ground and was lying there holding his head in despair for a while after a desperate attempt to run out Gautam Gambhir missed the stumps in the third over of the day. It was early on Monday, but a classic case of morning showing the day because Australia were in a similar position after Day 4 of the second Test.

Conceding more ground than the most demanding of Indian fans would have expected, losing every session yet again and showing signs of a side well and truly haggard, the world champions were left with an unenviable task of scoring 375 more on the final day or surviving 90 overs with five wickets standing.

That Pakistan stole a draw at this venue in 2005 after going into the last day six down is their only inspiration.

The pitch is offering significant help to the bowlers. It is slow enough to play spinners from the crease, but given that the batsmen to follow aren’t as used to these conditions as Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razzaq were, M.S. Dhoni wouldn’t sleep in a while if he doesn’t make it two out of two as Test captain on Tuesday.

In a continuation of their domination in this game, India started on a strong note. The openers put together 70 off 13 overs in the first hour and the highlight of the big opening stand was the running between wickets.

You don’t usually think of this when Virender Sehwag’s name is associated with it, but the player who likes to wield his bat as a scimitar showed he could put it to more delicate use if required.

Ponting had men on the fence to prevent boundaries and there were gaps to pick singles and twos.

Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir played the ball softly and deftly into them and ran hard to not only keep the scoreboard ticking but also induce many overthrows.

The script couldn’t have been better for India and the annoyance it caused Australia was seen when their openers came out and tried to blast almost every ball. India needed more than 100 to extend their lead to over 500 when Sehwag fell and this saw the interesting entry of Dhoni. It was significant because he was not sent in by someone else expecting big shots that he is capable of.

It was the case of a captain taking it upon himself the task of quick scoring. Dhoni too was quick to realise that running hard was the better option. Deflecting the ball here and there, he did just that and though Gambhir fell soon after his second Test century, scoring rate remained a concern for the fielding side only. It dipped a bit when Australia started bowling wide, but for them, the damage had already been done.

To give things a dramatic look, the task of separating the Australian openers fell on Harbhajan Singh. Matthew Hayden and even the normally sedate Simon Katich had rattled 49 in seven overs before the off-spinner got both in his first over. It was impossible to overlook the secretion of extra adrenaline that led to both dismissals.

Within nine overs after tea Australia had half the side back in the pavilion with Ishant Sharma striking twice including a remarkable incoming delivery that sped through the defence of Ricky Ponting.

Michael Clarke hung in with Brad Haddin, but the contrasting tales of the captains and the openers meant that there would be some provision for bhangra at the ground on Tuesday.