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Hayden, Ponting put Australia on top

By Ashish Magotra
Last updated on: December 27, 2003 14:11 IST
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An insipid batting performance on Day 2 saw India squander the advantage they had gained on the first day of the third Test against Australia at Melbourne on Saturday.

Resuming on 329 for four, the Indians were quickly bundled out for 366. In reply, Australia were 317 for the loss of three wickets at close of play. Ponting, 120, and Martyn, 7, were at the crease.

The Aussies gave the Indians a dose of their own medicine and scored at over 4 runs an over to run the Indian attack ragged. Two wickets late in the final session, gave the Indians some hope. But the outcome of this match will depend upon the first session on Sunday. Whichever side dominates will most probably go on to win.

Morning session

At the start of the day, India skipper Sourav Ganguly would have known that his side was by no means safe against an Australian team that very rarely scores below 3.5 runs per over. He would have also realised that India needed to get at least 500 to run the show.

He opted to replace the helmet on which he was hit on Friday. Brett Lee started off with a maiden and looked like he had found some rhythm.

Ganguly looked very anxious, which was in stark contrast to his partner, V V S Laxman, who was intent on playing a big innings. The Aussies definitely had a plan for Ganguly and slowly they dictated terms.

Lee decided to come round the wicket, a move that Ganguly welcomed with two superb fours through the covers. Then the fast bowler bowled one short. Ganguly (37) was pushed back towards his leg-stump and literally guided the ball straight to Justin Langer at third slip.

Then the Indians fell like ninepins.

Throughout this series, the tailenders have done their best, but today they erred.

Patel, it must be said, got a very good ball from Nathan Bracken first up and edged it to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist. Ajit Agarkar, always anxious to get off the mark, was run-out going for a suicidal first run. Anil Kumble's dismissal was the worst of the lot. The leg-spinner has played in 80 Tests now and it is still not clear to him that he just needs to stay at the wicket and support the batsman. Kumble had just one scoring shot to his credit before he went for an extravagant drive off Brad Williams and edged it straight to Langer in the slips.

Laxman, left with only Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, tried to salvage the situation and played a few more shots. But he received a beauty from leg-spinner Stuart MacGill that drew him out, turned and took the edge.

Nehra was dismissed in the same over. The Indian innings folded on 366.

From 278 for 1 India collapsed to 366 all out -- and the last six wickets fell for just 16 runs. That is the enigma called Indian batting. Brilliant one day, downright ordinary the other!

The Australian innings

The first few wickets are vital against the Aussies. Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting are all more than capable of taking the game away from India.

Agarkar, following his exploits at Adelaide, was given the honour of opening the attack and he did not disappoint. He found his line and length straightaway and made the openers play all the balls.

Zaheer, at the other end, looked a bit rusty but bowled a lot of good deliveries. Consistency was missing, but that could be put down to his injury lay-off.

Langer was eager to take on the bowlers. He hit a few boundaries before Agarkar got his wicket. The Indian bowler had been bowling inswingers to the left-hander all along and then got one to move towards the slips, away from the bat. Langer, expecting the ball to come in, was deceived and scooped it to Tendulkar at point.

Ponting, was in next, and hit a four off the second ball he faced.

A major worry for the Indians was the sight of Zaheer grimacing after bowling the last ball of the session. The hamstring injury appears to have returned to haunt him.

At lunch, Australia were 35 for the loss of one wicket. Hayden (6) and Ponting (4) were at the crease.

Post-lunch session

The Aussies assumed command and scored 114 runs, with both Hayden and Ponting hitting sedate half-centuries.

Agarkar and Nehra initially kept them on the back foot.

One has been accustomed to seeing both go hell for leather at the start of their innings but it was different this time. They bided their time at the start and when Kumble was introduced.

MacGill had got some deliveries to turn during the Indian innings and the same was expected from Kumble. But Hayden had some other plans. A massive straight six stood out and in between they put the leg-spinner, who conceded 43 runs in his seven overs, off his length.

Ponting looked in sublime touch too. Both batsmen hardly put a foot wrong in the session and none of the Indian bowlers really troubled them. Quick singles were gelled perfectly with well-struck boundaries. Their manipulation of the field was superb.

When Kumble first came on he had a short-leg and a slip. But as Hayden started opening up Ganguly removed the short-leg -- and with that any chance of a catch up close was reduced.

Something similar happened to Agarkar. He was bowling with three slips, got slammed for two straight drives, and the third slip was taken out. The next ball sailed through the spot where the third slip was.

Perhaps the defining moment of the innings occurred in the 34th over. Agarkar, the bowler; Ponting, the batsman. The Aussie glanced Agarkar behind square leg and started off for two runs. His partner, Hayden, not quite aware of his intentions, had gently ambled across to the other end and only when he saw Ponting charging back did he shift gears. A good throw from Zaheer in the deep would have caught Hayden well out of his crease. But it was well over the bowler's head, giving him no chance of collecting the ball.

India mis-fielded several times and the team generally looked low after their performance in the morning session.

Australia were 149 for the loss of one wicket at tea. Hayden, 68, and Ponting, 54, were at the crease.

Post-tea session

An extended final session (38 overs) saw the hosts stamping their authority on the match. 168 runs came in a flurry of fours before Hayden's dismissal gave India some hope.

The Aussies trail by only 49 runs and will know that a lead in the region of 150 will give them a very good chance of winning the match.

Hayden in particular started playing his shots, going after Kumble even as the seamers tried to control him. He is a big man and when he decides to hit something, it stays hit. Powerfully hit straight drives were the hallmark of his innings.

There was not much the Indians could do though. Ponting, at the other end, looked very secure.

Hayden survived a huge leg-before appeal against Kumble just before he reached his century. The ball hit the back leg as the opener played down the wrong line. It was hard to see how he was not out but then the umpire's word is final.

Hayden reached his 17th Test century off 136 balls with 12 fours and a six.

With the total on 222, Ponting survived a very close leg before shout against Kumble -- a full-length delivery that would have crashed into the off-stump. Once again the umpire ruled in the batsman's favour.

The Indians, by this point, were desperate for a breakthrough. The Aussies were toying with the bowling.

Finally, Kumble struck.

Hayden, trying to sweep across the line, missed the ball completely. The ball thudded into the back leg and umpire David Shepherd yielded.

Adam Gilchrist was in next. A surprise move but a sign of what the Aussies had in mind: put up a big total, dismiss the Indians and put the demons of Adelaide to rest. The pitch is starting to dry and will definitely crack up on the fourth and fifth day. The ball is already starting to keep low and countering Lee's pace and MacGill's turn could be quite a handful.

Ponting continued his amazing run of form. He has scores of 50, 54, 0, 242 in this series already and he followed that up with another century, his sixth of the year.

Kumble came into his own towards the end of the session; his googly started again. Gilchrist, trying to go over the top, skied a catch to Nehra at mid-on, who made no mistake (295-3).

The 300 came up in the 70th over.

The hosts have scored at over 4 runs an over and the game is wide open. Quick wickets early in the innings can still see India fight back. The Aussies still trail by 49 runs.

At close of play, Australia were 317 for the loss of three wickets. Ricky Ponting, 120, and Damien Martyn, 7, were at the crease.


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Ashish Magotra

IPL 2023

IPL 2023