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Friday, January 25, 2008

Lower order batting takes India to strong position: Fourth Test Day 2

Australia 0/62 trails India 526 (S Tendulkar 153, A Kumble 87, Harbhajan Singh 63, V Sehwag 63, VVS Laxman 51, M Johnson 4/126, B Lee 3/101 by 464 runs with 10 wickets in hand.

The photo on the left shows Australia, with field scattered to all points of the field, on the defensive against some obdurate Indian lower order batting which took the total to a healthy 526. The one on the right shows the Indian field crowding the Australian openers in the closing overs of another good, though not quite vintage, day of Test cricket.

Those who came to see Sachin Tendulkar add to his overnight 124 saw enough of him, as he added a further 31 runs in his typical style, to be able to tell their grandchildren that they'd seen the little master at his best. Even so, while these 31 runs helped take the total to 359, when he was struck by a blow on the knee from a Brett Lee delivery. After a few minutes a few minutes of on field treatment he lofted Lee's next ball high to Brad Hogg at backward square leg, who, after a moment's uncertainty, held the catch. Tendulkar's 153 in 205b (13x4, 3x 6) was an undoubted masterpiece, yet while it was not as many as I thought he needed to make to give his team the whip hand, he was primarily responsible for putting it in a reasonable position, and one which could be augmented to perhaps 400 or so by some sensible tail end batting.

As it happened Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh added 107 for the eighth wicket with a combination of stout defence, hard hitting and some high quality stroke play. The Australian bowlers could not extract much life from the pitch. At times they compelled respect, at others they were wayward: at one stage Mitchell Johnson conceded 32 from 4 overs before recovering to bowl two consecutive maidens. The fielding didn't help either as the first day's butterfingers virus spread to other team members.

Harbhajan was eventually caught by Adam Gilchrist running to square leg to hold a miscued pull off Andrew Symonds (who, for some unexplained reason, didn't bowl yesterday) for 63 / 103b (7x4). R P Singh went for a duck but Ishant Sharma stayed with Kumble to make 14 not out of a 58 partnership for the last wicket which last long enough to require the tea break to be postponed for half an hour. The tea interval had to be taken at 9/525 with Kumble on 86, and no doubt thinking about a century.

That wasn't to be, as he added only one more run after the resumption before he was caught behind off Johnson, which put Gilchrist ahead of South Africa's Mark Boucher as the holder of the record for the most dismissals by a keeper in Tests. Kumble's 87 took him 205 balls to compile, and included 9 fours. He was dropped once, at short leg from the ball immediately following Tendulkar's dismissal, when he was 7 but after that showed, before he tired in the 34 degree heat, that in the later part of his Test career he can claim to be a genuine all rounder whose batting ability opposing teams should not underrate.

526 was a good score, not least because it didn't look likely for large parts of the Indian innings. It was the post-Tendulkar 8th and 10th wicket partnerships, of 107 and 58 respectively, which gave India the ascendancy over Australia.

By the close the play that ascendancy remained, though the manner in which
Matthew Hayden and Phil Jaques added 62 without being parted (or really ever looking like being parted) suggested that they will be able to lead a good Australian response. Whether this will eventuate, and if it does whether it will be sufficient to gain a first innings lead, will be decided over the next day or so. The weather forecast is good from a cricketing point of view (30 deg+ with no rain expected ) and for the moment the wicket is still playing well but things can change direction, as some recent Adelaide Tests remind us, quite suddenly.


Cricinfo Bulletin.
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