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Ponting's double ton puts Aussies in command

Ponting scored his third double-century of the year before India lost quick wickets to close on 27/2.

india Updated: Dec 28, 2003 23:16 IST

There was yet again that sense of inevitability about the day's play, and it bode ill for the Indian team. There was little sign of the cold breeze that blows across the ground. It was warm and pleasant and the Australians, much to India's discomfort, did not indulge in any foolish heroics that had cost them the Adelaide Test.

To put it simply, Australia or to be precise, Ricky Ponting, completed Saturday's unfinished job with care and planning to build up a lead of 192 runs.

After having done one part of the job well, they started the second part in an even more methodical manner. And to compound India's woes, came the poor caught behind decision that umpire David Shepherd gave against Aakash Chopra. But there was no mistaking the brilliance of Brad Williams at square-leg that led to Virender Sehwag's dismissal.

Though no wicket fell after that, one was witness to the strange sight of Sourav Ganguly coming in to bat next. Where was Sachin Tendulkar? It was difficult to understand this change in batting order.

With two days still to go in the Test, one could say any of the four results is technically still possible - don't forget the tie - but in the end India would need a miracle to save this Test.

Even the fact that India have conjured up miraculous fightbacks in recent memory - the last one being as recent as the last Test - may not give much hope to the Indian fan.

The Australians on Sunday were more clinical than enterprising. There was nothing of the arrogant flamboyance that marks their batting these days. The slow and steady churning may not suit their style but that's what they did, with Ponting playing yet another innings of substance to become the leading run-getter of 2003 in Test cricket.

There were more records to be had for a man whose lightening footwork, range of strokes and the ability to pick the right stroke for the right ball should help him rewrite more records in the future.

Much as the spotlights were trained on Ponting and his double hundred, Steve Waugh was not to be denied his share of the drama, even if it became a bit bizarre in the end.

He walked in to a warm and generous applause from a crowd of over thirty thousand and seconds later, he was walking back to more applause from the same crowd.

He was hit on the elbow off a short ball from Ajit Agarkar that did not rise much. He left the crease in pain. Much to the delight of the crowd, he came back again to bat after the fall of Simon Katich's wicket. More applause. And more again when he got out without scoring too many runs.

But the Indians were not really interested in Waugh's final journey at the MCG. They had a very difficult job at hand. It became increasingly clear that Zaheer Khan is not fit - will someone explain why is he playing this Test ? - and the slowness of the wicket did not help the other two pacers, though Agarkar bowled extremely well.

So it was Anil Kumble - relishing the variable bounce in the wicket - who kept pegging from one end and also kept picking wickets. Had umpire Shepherd been a bit less conservative with his lbw decisions, Kumble could have picked his six-wicket haul in double the quick time and India may have restricted the Australians' lead.

Seeing Kumble bowl so well, one is baffled at Ganguly's decision to ignore Murali Kartik for this Test. But the Indian skipper deserves a pat for not letting the huge Australian score get to him and the team. And even more credit for walking in to bat at the fall of India's second wicket.

There could still be a lot of cricket left in the Test if India don't bat again the way they did on the second morning of the match. It is a very interesting track, much like what one sees at home.

It does have a bit more bounce but the ball is increasingly keeping low and has uneven bounce as well. The Indians are much used to playing on tracks like these. If the pressure does not get to them, who knows we might see another miracle taking place.


First Published: Dec 28, 2003 07:51 IST