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Krejza, Katich give Australia hope

cricket Updated: Nov 08, 2008 00:16 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The fourth Test was buried under Sourav Ganguly's anticlimactic pursuit of what would have been a fairytale century for a better part of Friday. It took India a while to come out of the hangover and although they plucked out two big names without conceding much, the visitors fought resiliently to stay in the match.

Showing the kind of grit and application that has made them favourites before every series they played in the last many years and which they lacked in bowling, Australia achieved about half of their first target of getting near India's 441.

How they proceed on resumption and how the Indians turn out on the third day might determine the destination of the Border-Gavsakar Trophy.

Interlocked with Ganguly was India's chance of putting up a score good enough to put pressure on Australia, with significant emphasis on spin bowling. The partnership between the former and present skipper was going to play an equally important role.

Ganguly and MS Dhoni stonewalled Australia's attempts to make a comeback and although the last five wickets fell for 22 runs, India had a formidable presence on the scoreboard by then.

In the context of the outcome of this massive series, it's just a statistic, albeit a major one, that Ganguly is playing his last Test. It was still impossible to overlook what he was doing because the team was depending on him to make the difference between a decent total and a good one.

Even though the attack was below par, scoring wasn't easy. That only one of his eight fours came from the Ganguly Zone behind point showed how hard he earned his runs.

Having said after the second Test that he would go back to his hard-hitting ways, Dhoni shelved that plan at least for this day.

Lucky to survive trying to blast Jason Krejza without getting to the pitch on the first ball he faced on the day, he too concentrated on working the ball around. Just four fours in 56 and a few times when they ran three underlined the prudence of this plan.

The urge that some in the Indian top seven showed to score as many as possible off him also contributed to his success.

That this is not all about Ganguly at all was felt when Australia came out to bat. The new ball made little impact with Zaheer Khan having an ordinary spell, and when it came to the much-awaited charge with spin Harbhajan Singh erred in line a few times.

While Zaheer failed to probe the batsmen as consistently as he has earlier in the series, the off-spinner drifted down leg against left-handers which released pressure whenever it was building and also resulted in some quick runs.

But Harbhajan got Ricky Ponting after Matthew Hayden had perished trying to test the untested arm of M. Vijay, whose direct hit from mid-on caught the batsman short of the crease at the non-striker's end.

Ponting did what had undone Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman on the first day - trying to cut against the off-break with the ball turning sharply.

Simon Katich with Michael Hussey denied India further inroads and took the game to a position where all possibilities are open. Amit Mishra came around the wicket against the left-handers after bowling two overs from the other side.