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Aussies chase 443 runs to send Waugh out a winner

Australia were 10 for no loss at stumps with Justin Langer unbeaten on 4 and Matthew Hayden on 1.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2004 00:59 IST

There are times in a match when all sorts of calculations that have very little to do with cricketing skills come into play. Monday at the SCG was one such day.

The sun had mellowed down. Clouds flitted over the ground the whole day, weaving an intricate pattern of black and gray shadows on the green grass. And the men in white flannels were trying to cut off spaces that the batsmen were trying to create with their strokeplay.

Sourav Ganguly, the man standing on the threshold of a historic Test series win here, was under tremendous strain the whole day --- a strain all captains have to face and then respond to in the manner they think is best for the team.

There was a purpose in his gait that conveyed self-confidence but the art of captaincy is not all that simple. It requires imagination. It requires an understanding of men and matters that go beyond the realm of the sport itself. And it requires an understanding of time and space, and how to make the best use of it to the team's advantage.

And it is here, in this conceptual understanding of time and space, that Ganguly was tested severely and his responses will be open to interpretation. As we go into the final day of what could go down as one of the finest Test series ever, with Australia requiring 433 runs in a possible 90 overs to win and India the same number of overs to get them out, one thing is sure. Ganguly will still be under tremendous stress.

He has possibly made sure that he does not lose the Test. And there is every possibility that he may go on to win on Tuesday.

There was one man who tried to ensure that Australia got out of troubled waters on Monday morning. Simon Katich 's century was a reflection of his immense talent and also his ability to play spin the way it should be: with sound decisive forward or back foot movement.

And his time consuming partnership with Gillespie also ensured that Australia have now been left with the door open from where they can escape and possibly draw the match. And who knows? Even achieve the impossible!

And finally, when Anil Kumble -- bowling again in masterly fashion and using the speed and trajectory of the ball to bemuse the batsmen -- got rid of the Australians, Ganguly was still under strain. Should he enforce a follow-on or bat again?

For a team not given even a ghost of a chance to win a Test in Australia, Ganguly, like most captains, would have wanted to make sure that his defence was foolproof so that there was not even the remotest chance to end up a loser here. Then, the fact that his only strike bowler, Kumble, needed rest must have sealed the decision to bat again.

And when the Indians batted, as was expected, runs flowed. Virender Sehwag played like only he can, mixing authenticity and inventiveness to produce a thrilling concoction. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid played a series of spectacular shots while Ganguly, sitting in the dressing room, had another decision to make. When to declare? He finally did with four overs to go for the day, when Dravid was struck below his helmet, a blow that drew blood from his right ear lobe.

It is now for Steve Waugh to take the strain. Will he let his team light up the final day of his Test career with a series of dazzling shots and record the greatest Test win ever, or will he play out a draw so that he does not lose his farewell series?


First Published: Jan 05, 2004 20:07 IST