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Tendulkar fires as India gatecrash Waugh's bash

At stumps on the first day, India were 284/3 with Sachin unbeaten on 73 and Laxman 29 not out.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2004 01:38 IST

The Indians slipped in quietly, and watched thousands mill into the SCG on Friday morning -- fans who went hysterical every time Steve Waugh was spotted or when his name appeared on the screen.

With the entire focus of the Australians on their skipper, the Indians, for early part of the match, appeared fulfilling the role of setting up the stage for Waugh's grand farewell.

This Aussie obsession suited the Indians fine. And it was only in the final session that the crowd realised they were watching a Test match in which their team could be in trouble.

They woke up to this reality only when Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman joined hands at tea and did not part ways till the end.

In many ways India's performance on Friday was reminiscent of their first day's display at Melbourne and in more ways than one it was very different.

India again made runs and once again finished the day with a very healthy score.

Though Rahul Dravid failed to get going, the good news is that Tendulkar is still at the crease and hopefully, he will bat on Saturday morning with greater confidence, as he is just 27 runs short of his hundred.

When he came into bat at 128 for two, the day's play hung in balance with Australia threatening to swing the match their way.

There were ample signs at the start of his innings that Tendulkar was in good touch.

A straight drive off Bret Lee was an indication that he was neither nervous nor out of touch. He stayed in the cruise mode even after watching a very confident and fluent Rahul Dravid get out without making a tall score.

Till his 50, Tendulkar's touch did not desert him but at the advent of the second new ball, life became a bit of a struggle. A master in handling the short stuff, Tendulkar was twice hit on the body and was beaten a couple of times outside the off stump. But to the relief of the Indians he is still there.

His partnership with Laxman developed at a very crucial stage and if India had lost a wicket or two in the final hour, the Indians would have lost all the advantage of winning the toss, and also the excellent start given by Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag.

God was on the Indian side once again. First the coin fell in Sourav Ganguly's favour and then, Chopra got lucky twice -- caught off a no ball and then dropped on the very next ball, a legitimate one.

There was more bounce and movement in the wicket than possibly even at Brisbane but the two openers managed to stay at the wicket till much after lunch.

Chopra deserves a lot of credit for helping India get excellent starts throughout this series. He is an unselfish batsman who knows where his off stump is and has the right technique to leave the ball and to play the short stuff. He values his wicket even more than his life.

Yet, somehow, he has failed to build upon his fine starts.

It is as if he is struck by an affliction called the ‘nervous forties'. Hopefully, his time will come as he has stood up bravely to the most difficult test any opener can face.

Sehwag has no such problems. He has learnt to be circumspect in the beginning of his innings but if there is a ball that he thinks can be smashed he does it without thinking too much of the consequences. Lee would understand this well as he was slashed for a six over point -- a shot reminiscent of the manner in which Sehwag hit Shoaib Akhtar in the World Cup.

The loss of these two and then Dravid had created a pressure situation for the Indians but Laxman stuck it out well and Tendulkar, despite creating pressure for himself by going into his shell that resulted in errors of judgment, the day has gone well for them.

This seems to be a wicket where the ball could turn on the fourth and the fifth day and a score of 450 or more should be India's aim.

Wisdom, it seems, finally prevailed upon Ganguly as he accepted the logic of those who wanted Murali Kartik and Irfan Pathan to play the Test. And, his decision to send Laxman ahead of himself was another indication that Ganguly is learning to be more inventive and more receptive to the needs of the team.

Scorecard

First Published: Jan 02, 2004 06:03 IST