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Australia fight back after batting collapse

By Julian Linden
October 16, 2005 14:04 IST
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Australia were in a commanding position to win the ICC super Test against the World XI on Sunday despite suffering one of the worst batting collapses in their proud cricketing history.

Ricky Ponting's men lost their last nine wickets for just 47 runs to be all out for 199 but still finished the third day in complete control as the star-studded tourists slumped to 25-2, chasing 355 for victory.

Glenn McGrath celebrated his elevation as the most successful paceman in Test cricket by bowling World XI skipper Graeme Smith for a duck then leg-spinner Stuart MacGill had dangerous Indian opener Virender Sehwag caught behind for one.

India's new skipper Rahul Dravid was unbeaten on 17 with West Indian world record holder Brian Lara yet to score when play was called off early because of bad light on a gloomy day at the Sydney Cricket Ground that both teams might prefer to forget.

Australia's batting collapse was their worst in a Test on home soil since they lost 9-40 to be all out for just 42 against England in Sydney in 1888 and their worst anywhere in the world since they lost 9-36 to be all out for 84 at Old Trafford in 1956.

It was all the more extraordinary given that it came after Matthew Hayden and Ponting both posted half-centuries in a 122-run partnership for the second wicket.

The pair were virtually untroubled as they took the overnight score from 66-1 to 152-1 when the wheels suddenly fell off just before lunch.


England's Ashes heroes Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison once again did most of the damage, capturing three wickets each, while Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan polished off the tail to also finish with three scalps.

Harmison triggered the collapse when he bowled Hayden for 77 and Michael Clarke for five, sending the ball crashing into both men's leg stumps after beating them with his sheer pace.

Flintoff grabbed the prize wicket of Ponting after lunch, caught behind for 54, then added the scalps of Shane Warne for seven and Shane Watson for 10.

Muralitharan, turning the ball at alarming angles on a pitch ideally suited for spin bowlers, picked up two wickets before tea in as many overs and was unlucky not to have got more.

He took a sharp return catch to dismiss Simon Katich for two then found the edge to remove Adam Gilchrist for one, caught by Jacques Kallis at slip, but had four separate appeals turned down by the video umpire Darrell Hair.

Play was halted for 75 minutes because of bad light and the Australian innings lasted just 14 minutes when the players eventually returned with Muralitharan and Harmison splitting the last two wickets.

Australia's dreadful collapse spoiled an otherwise perfect return home for the Australians, who rebounded from the disappointment of losing the Ashes to thrash the representative side 3-0 in last week's one-day series in Melbourne.

Hayden, whose international career was in jeopardy before he made a hundred in the last Ashes test, followed up his first-innings century with another fine performance.

He survived a confident lbw appeal from Muralitharan on 28 to pass his half-century off 92 balls and struck a total of nine boundaries before Harmison bowled him with a ball that sneaked between bat and pad and turned the game upside down.

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Julian Linden
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