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Saturday, January 26, 2008

A hard day's grind: Fourth Test Day 3

Australia 3/322 (M Hayden 103, R Ponting 79 no, P Jaques 60, M Clarke 37 no) trail India 526 by 204 runs on the first innings.

Today is both Australia Day and India's Republic Day, so play in the test match was preceded by a lengthy ceremony which included the singing of both countries' national anthems.

Then the battle on the pitch recommenced. Australia grafted throughout the day, losing only three wickets to an Indian attack which was steady without, apart from a few spells, being menacing.

In the first session, during which 30 overs were bowled, in spite of the mid 30s heat and two drinks breaks, Matthew Hayden and Phil Jaques advanced the score from 62 to 158. Spinners kept one, and sometimes both, ends going. Harbhajan Singh began at the southern end, while Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar each had a turn (Kumble's being by far the longer) before lunch. R P Singh was still sidelined with hamstring problems so the quick bowling was left in the hands of Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan, each of whom occasionally got one past the edge of the bat but didn't cause either batter much trouble.

Immediately after lunch Kumble broke through, bowling Jaques for a solid 60/159b. Enter Ricky Ponting, who dug in for the rest of day. I can only recall two of his trademark pulls to the leg boundary, but his determination was obvious.

Hayden completed an excellent, if by his standards relatively subdued, hundred: his 30th in test cricket. Shortly after doing so he was bowled through the gate by an excellent Sharma ball which came in the middle of a 9 -2 - 10 -1 spell for 103/200b (10x4, 1x6).

The occasional ball kept low or, when bowled by a spinner, bounced, which may have put some doubts into the batsmen's minds and, coupled with the tight bowling, pegged the scoring rate back to pre-1990s levels. Even so, only one more wicket fell for the rest of the day. Mike Hussey looked ill at ease by his standards, but he seemed to be finding his feet when he was bowled by Irfan Pathan for a laboured 22/66b.

At this point Australia were 3/241. Michael Clarke joined Ponting and took a while to settle in, but by the close of play was looking more assured. The captain, despite his doggedness showed a greater willingness to play strokes in the final overs, when the new ball was at last taken after 107 overs. At stumps he was 79 no/150b and looks set to continue tomorrow, when spectators will hope for a more positive approach as the follow on is passed and the Indian bowling tires.

While there are some parallels with the Second Ashes Test played here in 2006 it is IMO too much to expect a similar result this time. Both sides in the current match have strong batting but bowling which appears to lack the penetration required to dismiss the opposition in two or three sessions. This means that the draw is looking as the likeliest result, but then I thought that about the Ashes Test until some time into the final day.

Scorecard.

Cricinfo Bulletin.
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