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Australia cruise to nine-wicket win

By Ashish Magotra
Last updated on: December 30, 2003 08:51 IST
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Australia cruised to a nine-wicket victory over India in the third Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday.

Needing only 95 to win and level the series, Matthew Hayden (53) and Ricky Ponting (31) knocked off the required runs in 22.2 overs to guide the hosts to an expected victory.

Medium-pacer Ajit Agarkar claimed the wicket of Justin Langer for the fifth time in three Tests to prove that the Australian opener is indeed his bunny.

Agarkar gets the ball to swing late into the left-hander and more often than not traps him right in front of his stumps. Langer was gone for two and Australia were reduced to nine for the loss of one wicket.

There was a slight drizzle around this stage but play went on.

The only other chance of the morning was when Hayden was lucky to survive a huge leg-before appeal against Ashish Nehra. The medium-pacer got the ball to pitch in line with the off-stump. It would have most probably gone on to hit middle stump, but umpire David Sheperd turned down the appeal.

Hayden made the most of the chance and hammered the Indian bowlers to all parts of the ground with handsome drives and well-hit pull shots. His 53 came off just 63 balls.

Ponting, at the other end, played the perfect partner, rotating the strike and hitting some nice boundaries. He led the way for the Australia and just did not allow the bowlers to settle down and put pressure on the batsmen.

Kumble was taken to the cleaners by the duo, he conceded 41 runs in his 6.2 overs. Both, Nehra and Agarkar, bowled well but for an Indian attack already missing Zaheer Khan, there were too few runs to defend.

Many lessons are there to be learnt from this Test. Sehwag's brilliant knock would have guaranteed India victory in most matches but against an Australian side that forces the pace at all times you have to play good cricket on all five days; one good session or day will not win you the Test.

India were atrocious in the field and there were several mis-fields in both innings and it remains to be seen how the visitors respond. The Indian tail too needs to contribute. In the first innings, the last six wickets went down for 16; in the second innings, the last six fell for 33.

Australia lost the second Test at Adelaide and came back with a win. Can India do the same against a very confident Australian side?

The fourth and final Test of this riveting series starts in Sydney on January 2, 2004.

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Ashish Magotra

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