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Aussies chase 95 to win third Test and level series

The second new ball broke the backbone of Indian batting as the team lost six wickets for 33 runs.

india Updated: Dec 30, 2003 01:26 IST

The sight of teenager Parthiv Patel tenaciously battling it out even when the war had almost been lost, must have added to the depression in the Indian dressing room.

All India needed was 100 more runs in the second innings to keep the Test alive and leave a question mark hanging over the result of the match. And when one looks back at the fourth day's play, Patel's batting -- he scored an unbeaten 27 -- becomes significant.

Because if he could stand at the centre, courageously and confidently, and even protect the last man so that more runs could be scored, the failure of the top order to put up a bigger score is a big letdown.

It was a difficult wicket to play strokes on. It was a wicket where the ball was keeping low and even seaming a bit. But it wasn't a wicket where the ball was flying. It wasn't a wicket where the batsmen were being intimidated by pace or bounce. It was a wicket, much like one is used to seeing in India.

And if you look at the scoreboard you would wonder why Tendulkar couldn't make a hundred, if he could make 44. If Dravid could make 92, why couldn't he make much more? And if Sourav Ganguly could score 73, what prevented him from getting a hundred? These are questions that must be causing a lot of disquiet in the minds of India's Top Three.

What an opportunity it was for the Indian batsmen to come up with another magical performance that would have made them appear near invincible to their foes. It was an opportunity each of them created with a combination of skill and patience, and then all of a sudden they frittered it away.

One wonders what could be wrong with Tendulkar. He chose to stay in the dressing room on Sunday and Monday, after a hesitant start, he did appear to be getting into his familiar groove.

Just when everything looked in order, Tendulkar lost his wicket. With a series of failures now chasing him, there is no doubt that he has entered that phase in his career where self-doubts create tension and lead to even more failures. Surely not a good sign for him and India.

Even after Tendulkar had gone and VVS Laxman had perished, there was hope for India. Dravid was playing with a lot of assurance and appeared set to construct another of his epic innings. But no, this time he failed. A score of 92, going by the yardstick Dravid is setting for himself, does appear a failure.

And now on to the enigmatic and entertaining Ganguly. This man is courage personified. On Sunday he came ahead of Tendulkar to face the fire and on Monday he was badly shaken when he took his eyes off a short ball that struck him on his helmet. He was escorted to the pavilion but came back to bat again and played with aplomb, daring and aggression.

And then, that sudden rush of blood and Ganguly left the field cursing himself.

From an Australian point of view it was a very disturbing situation once India erased the first innings deficit of 192, with both Dravid and Ganguly batting quite beautifully.

The second new ball became Steve Waugh's last hope and once Dravid left, his job had been done. Though it was Brett Lee who got Dravid out, the man who did the trick for Waugh was Brad Williams.

Despite his huge bulk, the man has tremendous athletic energy. He fields like a lithe young man and on Monday bowled with pace and control. His was a match-winning effort, for if India had made another 75 runs, one could have probably seen a thrilling contest on the final day.

Just imagine Anil Kumble bowling on a wicket where the ball is keeping low, skidding and turning!

Did someone say the difference between India and Australia has been the difference between Virender Sehwag's 195 and Ricky Ponting's 257: A difference of 62 runs. It is a somewhat harsh observation but possibly true.

Scorecard

First Published: Dec 29, 2003 06:10 IST