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Saturday, October 11, 2008

India wobble, then regroup: First Test day 3

India 8/313 (Harbhajan Singh 54,R Dravid 51, S Ganguly 4,7 M Johnson 4/62) trail Australia 430 by 117 runs with two wickets remaining in the first innings; at Bangalore

Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir's spirited response to Australia's first innings continued for just seven more balls this morning. Brett Lee's second delivery trapped Gambir lbw for 21. 1/70 became 4/106 as Mitchell Johnson cut through the high profile Indian top order having Sehwag well caught by Matthew Hayden at slip, Sachin Tedulkar not picking a slower ball and being caught at cover and VVS Laxman caught behind for a duck.

Dravid and Sourav Ganguly added 49 before the Wall was adjudged lbw to Shane Watson for a timely and mostly composed 51/104b (7x4). MS Dhoni did not get a start before falling to a ball from Michael Clarke which turned just enough to beat the bat and hit off stump. Then Ganguly, immediately after taking a lengthy onfield break to deal with a bleeeding nose, fell to lbw to Johnson. 7/232.

Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan, surprisingly coming in ahead of Anil Kumble, stopped the slide with a positive 80 run partnership which understandably frustrated the Australians. It ended when Harbhajan swished at Shane Watson and was well caught behind by a leaping Brad Haddin. The day's play, which had been extended because of a rain break, was called off shortly after this as the light faded.

The Australian attack bowled better than yesterday. Mitchell Johnson lifted considerably, and he was well supported by Brett Lee and Shane Watson. Only Stuart Clark seemed a little, though not much, below his personal par. Part time spinners Michael Clarke and Cameron White did not disgrace themselves either.

Australia, despite the Indian revival, are clearly in the better position, though with two days to go, and some uncertain weather in prospect, they may not be in a position to force a win. The wicket seemed to improve over the course of today but may not deteriorate enough to make a victory for either side easy to achieve.

If one team is to win on present indications it would be Australia even though there are precedents such as this and especially this for major changes within the course of matches between the countries. This of course is one of the chief reasons why Test cricket can be so enthralling despite the slow pace a which matches develop.

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