Having escaped being run out on 74 and dropped on 85 and 96, Sachin Tendulkar grabbed his 40th Test century and anchored the innings towards a point where only one team can think of winning this Test, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.cricket Updated: Nov 07, 2008 00:27 IST
After winning what might turn out to be a huge toss and carting the bowlers around in the first hour, India were strongly placed to reach a position to bat Australia out of the match. Having frittered that advantage away in the remainder of the first session, the hosts showed the necessary application in the last two to regain most of what they had lost.
While the Indians changed gears when it was required, the visitors did almost everything they didn't want to. On a pitch that is good for batting and likely to offer turn as the game goes on, they were listless with the new ball and conceded far too many runs with it. To top everything, they gave three reprieves to Sachin Tendulkar in a match where they can't afford even half a slip.
Having escaped being run out on 74 and dropped on 85 and 96, the evergreen veteran grabbed his 40th Test century and anchored the innings towards a point where only one team can think of winning this Test. The brisk opening stand helped as did the toothless attack, but Tendulkar's fourth-wicket partnership with VVS Laxman was crucial in terms of runs as well as being a lesson in what the approach should be in such a situation.
Australia gambled by replacing Stuart Clark with Jason Krejza in the XI and the absence of a third specialist quick meant the new ball had to be used well. It started travelling to distant corners of the park from the first over and instead of attacking at a time when he had to, Ricky Ponting was forced to get defensive with his placement of fielders. Runs came in singles, twos and fours as the first hour produced 70 in 13 overs without loss.
India had reason to be apprehensive with a new opener in a big game, but M. Vijay did his job. With Virender Sehwag in a mood to murder, the debutant played intelligently and placed the ball around to ensure that runs came from both ends. They were coming thick and fast until Shane Watson gave Australia the breakthrough. Making the batsmen play without giving them room, the allrounder was the best of three quick men, and what followed revived his team's hopes.
Krejza got a rude welcome to Test cricket with Sehwag getting after him from the first time he faced him. After going for 32 from three overs, ironically enough the off-spinner got his first wicket from a defensive prod, of Rahul Dravid who was undone by the turn and played into the hands of forward short-leg. Sehwag perished trying to make room for a cut when there was none and at 119 for three, Australia were back in the match.
Fortunately for India, normalcy was restored after the early hostilities. Australia continued to follow a defensive plan and bowled on one side of the wicket with enough protection and it was important for the batsmen not to force the pace. Tendulkar and Laxman are experienced enough to not walk into this trap and, after blunting what the bowlers threw at them, two of India's most successful batsmen against Australia started scoring mainly in singles and twos with the odd boundary in between.
Kerjza did bulk of the bowling and his economy rate improved towards the end of the day. Given that Australia wanted wickets from him, they might not be too bothered by the number of runs he gave away. At the same time, Ponting must have noticed the kind of turn he was getting and he knows what that means when it comes to facing the Indian spinners later in the match. Even though India might think they lost a wicket too many, that is why 311 for five is not that bad after all.