Friday, October 31, 2008

Sehwag spoils Aussies day out

Patience pays. Perseverance has its returns. And mental fortitude is a blessing in disguise.
We are not preaching from a holy book, and neither are these phrases meant to spread the message of peace and virtuosity.
Instead, these are the attributes that helped Australia dominate the third day's play in the third Test at the Ferozshah Kotla on Friday.
This was important considering they were on the backfoot on the first two days. They added 288 runs during the day to their overnight total (50), losing just four wickets.
At stumps on Friday, the visitors were 338 for 4, still 275 runs behind the Indian total and needing 76 runs to avoid the follow-on.
On the positive side, they had achieved a mental victory over the Indians and probably did enough to ensure that they save the Test at least -- a possibility that looked remote after the first couple of days.
Michael Clarke and Shane Watson were still batting, on 21 and four respectively.
But Virender Sehwag , with figures of 3 for 66, ensured that India have a lot to look forward to on Saturday.
Morning Session: (Runs: 101, Overs: 26, Wicket: 1)
Resuming at their overnight score of 50 for no loss, the Australian openers began at a steady pace and, for once, seemed comfortable with the Indian bowling. There was a conspicuous change in the mental approach.
Instead of just trying to be defensive, the visitors kept the scoreboard ticking with cheeky singles interspersed with well-timed boundaries. The Indian bowlers were getting a taste of the medicine that their Australian counterparts had had for two successive days.
Simon Katich soon reached his tenth Test fifty, his sixth against India (in 12 Tests), with a tentative single off Anil Kumble . And his partner, Hayden, hit a huge six off Amit Mishra to bring up the 100-run partnership for the opening wicket -- the first time it happened in this series for the visitors. It came in just over two hours off 175 balls.
The duo looked set for a long haul when Katich did something that has become a characteristic feature of his batting in this series. He came charging to a tossed up delivery from Mishra, missed the flight completely and witnessed his middle stump get uprooted. Katich scored 64, which included ten hits to the fence.
The 33-year-old Australian has had starts in all the five innings in this series -- scores of 66, 34, 33 and 20 are a case in point. Only if he had the patience to build on those starts his team would have been served better.
On this occasion though a promising opening wicket stand was cut short on 123. Hayden, on the other hand, kept up the momentum and soon completed a half-century -- his seventh against India and 28th overall.
After scoring three hundreds in successive Tests -- Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide -- Hayden, who turned 37 on Tuesday was having a woeful run with the bat and had scores of 0, 13, 0 and 29 before things innings. This wasn't a vintage innings but should have done his confidence a world of good.
Post-Lunch Session: (Runs: 86, Overs: 29, Wickets: 1)
The session started with an invasion that stopped play for about four minutes. It wasn't the over-excited crowds but a swarm of bees. The players were forced to duck for cover and the shutterbugs had a whale of a time. In fact, one of them caught Sachin Tendulkar trying to use his hat to cover his face.
When play did resume, the Australian batsmen resumed their respective roles. Matthew Hayden was increasingly growing in confidence but at the same time also living dangerously.
He survived a loud appeal off Anil Kumble, when he was on 66, and it appeared that he had nicked to Rahul Dravid at first slip. However, umpire Billy Bowden thought otherwise, and the television replays suggested he was right. Soon after, Kumble himself dropped him (when on 70) at short mid-wicket off the bowling of Amit Mishra.
Hayden's drive was hard. The physio had to rush to the ground and, subsequently, Kumble left the field, handing over the reigns to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, and headed straight to Apollo Hospital.
The 37-year-old batsman continued with his generosity. He nicked Virender Sehwag but the ball fell short of Dravid at first slip. For once, fortune was smiling on Hayden -- he had been unfortunate in both the innings of the opening Test in Bangalore. But then Hayden was guilty of being greedy and eventually paid.
Sehwag finally had the measure of him, trapping him plumb in front. Australia 202 for 2.
Nonetheless, it was reassuring to see Hayden back among the runs. He scored 83, inclusive of 13 hits to the fence, and one over it. More importantly, he was involved in a 79-run second-wicket partnership with Ponting.
The latter went on to complete his half century -- his sixth against India and 41st overall. More importantly, the Australian captain got himself out of the hole that he had let himself into after that majestic 123 at Bangalore and was hitting the ball with his characteristic confidence.
Final session: Runs: 101, Overs: 35, Wickets: 2
The Australian looked at consolidation with caution. Consequently, runs came in a trickle as the emphasis was more on saving wickets.
An otherwise dull session, this one was characterized by a spectacular delivery by Sehwag that accounted for Ponting (87). It was a perfect off-spinner. Sehwag tossed the ball up, induced Ponting to come forward for the drive and the ball, after pitching, generated considerable turn and hurried in viciously to castle the batsman's stumps.
Without doubt, it was the highlight of the day's play -- and we are only talking from an Indian perspective. Australia 284 for 3.
Michael Hussey went on to complete his 11th Test fifty -- a dogged innings coming off 134 deliveries and consisting seven boundaries.
The new ball was taken with seven overs left in the day. And, instead of the fast bowlers, it was Sehwag again who got the breakthrough, cleaning up Hussey (53) on this occasion. Australia 326 for 4.
The 30-year-old part-timer was India's best bowler on the day and the fact that he managed to generate so much turn was the positive factor for the hosts.
To sum up, it would suffice to say that the Australians deserve to be in the position they are in. There was a certain amount of patience in their batting, they were very much aware what their target for the day was and, more importantly, they mostly rendered ineffective the Indian bowlers, completely neutralizing the persistent attacks with a resolute defense.
On second thoughts, Sehwag was an aberration.

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