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The fall looks imminent

Bowlers fight back but batsmen's surrender leaves India on the brink of a huge defeat. Rohit Bhaskar reports. Scorecard | India stare at defeat | Pics | A glimmer of hope amidst the gloom

india Updated: Jan 15, 2012 01:34 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times

The writing's on the wall. The only thing standing between India and a third straight defeat against Australia - and seventh straight in away Tests - is The Wall.

Even after a day, which would count as one of their better ones on this long, and to this point, hellish tour Down Under, India still find themselves requiring a further 120 runs with six wickets in hand to stave off an innings defeat.

India bowlers came back with a strong display after the opening day mauling to restrict Australia to 369, dismissing the last nine batsmen for 139 runs. India were then precariously placed at 88/4 with Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli occupying the crease.

For the first hour on Saturday, the proceedings were a replay of the closing session of the first day. David Warner showed his wide range of strokes. There were thick outside edges, which raced to the boundary. If you over-pitched it, he could get on one knee and smash it to the long-off boundary. Sometimes, the line and length of the delivery were rendered irrelevant, the massive six off Ishant a case in point.

At the other end, Ed Cowan looked like the proverbial tortoise. He moved along to 74, the Australian total at 214/0, before Umesh Yadav ended the hosts' double-century opening partnership.

A return to his home ground did Shaun Marsh no good as he perished to Yadav, caught poking outside the off-stump. Yadav completed his fine spell with the wicket of Ricky Ponting with an in-swinging, full-length delivery that sneaked past Ponting's defence.

Yadav played a part in the next dismissal as well, running to his left to hold a Warner skier. By the time it was all said and done, he'd bludgeoned 180 runs off 159 balls with 20 fours and five sixes.

Zaheer chips in
Zaheer then provided the twin breakthroughs, of skipper Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin, before debutant Vinay Kumar got his first Test wicket - that of Michael Hussey. Yadav added two more wickets to collect his maiden five-wicket haul (5/93). India came out to bat in the final session and adopted a cautious approach. Even the cavalier Virender Sehwag was playing with uncharacteristic patience. The ploy worked at first as India saw off the opening spell of Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus.

Starc strikes
However, the good work was undone in the second ball of first-change Mitchell Starc's first over. The lanky left-armer angled one into Gambhir's body that squared him up and looped into the air after hitting the handle of his bat. As has been the trend in the series, the fall of one wicket was greeted with another batsman going back to the pavilion in the next over. Sehwag was lured into a nothing shot, neither forward nor back, and edged one to wicketkeeper Haddin off Peter Siddle.

Starc was changed after just one over, but when he came back for his second, he got the biggest wicket of his blossoming career. Pitching one on middle stump, the ball thudded into Tendulkar's pads. Umpire Aleem Daar had no hesitation in raising his finger as Tendulkar walked back dismayed, and letting the world know it. Hilfenhaus then added to VVS Laxman's horror run, sending him back for a duck. Dravid and Virat Kohli, then ensured the match would go to the third day, at the very least, adding an unbeaten 37 runs by stumps.

First Published: Jan 14, 2012 10:17 IST