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99-run lead puts Aussies on top

Last updated on: November 04, 2004 18:15 IST


Eighteen wickets fell for 290 runs on a dramatic second day of the fourth Test between India and Australia, at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai. Australia took a vital first innings lead of 99 runs, but the result of the match is still open to speculation.

After being dismissed for a paltry 104 in their first innings, India fought back after tea to dismiss the visitors for 203, as Anil Kumble claimed five wickets and Murali Kartik four. Damien Martyn top-scored for the Aussies with 55.

At close of play, India were five for no loss, with Virender Sehwag unbeaten on 4 and Gautam Gambhir on 1.

The bowlers completely dominated the proceedings as every ball did something out of the ordinary. Even though Australia have what can be a match-winning lead, few would venture to predict the outcome of this Test because of the minefield of a pitch it is being played on.

In 1882 -- the ninth Test match ever – Australia, batting first, was bowled out for 63. England, in reply, could muster only 101. Australia did better in the second innings, posting 122, leaving England the simple task of getting only 85 to win.

England were cruising comfortably at 51 for 2, needing only 34 for victory. But then Frederick Spofforth, in one of the most devastating spells in Test cricket, claimed seven wickets, and England plunged to defeat by seven runs.

Spofforth's match aggregate of 14 for 90 is to this day the best ever by any bowler at the Oval. The legend goes that Spofforth, who single-handedly inspired Australia, raised his own spirits by repeatedly telling himself 'this thing can be done'.

The Indians need to do exactly that.

Morning session (30.3 overs, 8 wickets, 82 runs)

For the first time in the series India won the toss and elected to bat on wicket that would turn from day 1. It was a vital toss, because batting last on the wicket would be really tough. Even a total of around 150 to 200 on this pitch would mean that India would be in the game.

By the 30th over the ball was reverse swinging and when spin was introduced in the 33rd over, the first ball turned square and Hauritz had not even flighted it.

India have the right attack for the pitch and one feels they would do well to open the attack with a spinner. You don't need to open with a part-timer -- Sachin Tendulkar in this case. Specialists are the need of the hour and the dry, dusty wicket should give the likes of Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Murali Karthik all the assistance they need.

But why are we talking about what India should do while bowling when it is virtually the first morning of play?

Simply, because India lost wickets in a heap before the first hour was over and, at one point, it seemed they would be hard-pressed to reach even 100.

The first wicket to fall in the day was that of Tendulkar. Jason Gillespie has been at his fiery best in this series. By the end of his first spell, in which he claimed three wickets, the fast bowler had already claimed 20 wickets in the series, at an average of 13.80.

Tendulkar (5) was done in by a good length delivery that moved towards the slips after pitching. He pushed forward and the faint edge carried to Adam Gilchrist, who made no mistake. (29 for 3)

V V S Laxman's (1) horrid run continued and he was gone in much the same manner to the Gillespie-Gilchrist combination again. (31 for 4)

The next dismissal provided an example of the tricks the mind plays while seated in the dressing room. After having watched Tendulkar and Laxman edge out-swingers to the keeper, Mohammad Kaif (2) shouldered arms to a well disguised in-swinger and was trapped leg-before the wicket. (33 for 5)

Rahul Dravid was still batting at the other end, but he was fighting a lone battle. The middle-order had collapsed and India was in big trouble.

One got the feeling that Dravid needed to attack as the pitch was bad. In fact, it is not suitable for Test cricket.

Karthik (10), Kumble (16) and Harbhajan Singh (14) came out and threw their bats around, but on a wicket that is offering so much assistance to the bowlers you need to be unorthodox and go for your shots. These were also the highest scores in the batting order after Dravid.

The innings was over in a jiffy as Hauritz claimed three wickets and Kasprowicz two, after McGrath and Gillespie had done the early damage.

Dravid was left stranded after scoring 31 off 104 balls, inclusive of three boundaries and one six. It was tough in the middle, but if Dravid could survive why couldn't the others?

India were all out for 104, their lowest total at the Wankhede stadium. Lunch was taken immediately after the fall of India's last wicket.

Post-lunch session (28 overs, 3 wickets, 99 runs)

Australia came out to bat well aware of the perils of trying to graft on this Wankhede wicket, on which the best way to bat is by playing shots. It is much better to get out after scoring runs, because sooner or later the bowlers would claim a wicket.

Looking at the behaviour of the wicket in the first session, it was no surprise when Harbhajan Singh opened the attack with Zaheer Khan.

And in the off-spinner's second over, Langer, on 11, was dropped by Virender Sehwag at deep mid-wicket. The ball was turning square and, with so few runs on the board, every chance had to be taken.

Zaheer would have known that he will not get a lot of bowling in the innings. But, just as one got the feeling that he was not making the batsmen play enough, he struck. The ball held its line and Langer edged it to Dravid at first slip. (17 for 1)

After just 12 overs, Kumble was introduced into the attack; it was spin from both ends.

The leg-spinner's impact was immediate. Ponting was trapped leg-before the wicket by a quicker delivery. The point of contact seemed a little high, but umpire Aleem Daar thought otherwise. (37 for 2)

Australia's 50 came off 101 balls and illustrated exactly how India should have batted. Hayden struggled to start with but soon opened his shoulders. A huge six off Kumble showed his intent and the longer he stayed at the wicket the more confident he grew.

Harbhajan got the ball to jump and turn but was unable to make the batsmen play at it enough.

But, perhaps, the match-defining moment occurred when Gautam Gambhir dropped Damien Martyn, on 11, at short leg. Gambhir reacted well and got both his hands to the ball but spilled the catch when his elbows hit the ground. The catch needed to be held and India once again faltered.

But Karthik got his own back a little later when he got Hayden's wicket. As the left-hander charged down the wicket, the ball bounced more than he expected and the inside edge popped up to Kaif, at short-leg. (81 for 3)

Thereafter, Martyn and Simon Katich, the new batsman, safely played out the overs to tea.

At tea, after 28 overs, Australia were 99 for 3, trailing only by five runs with seven first innings wickets in hand.

Post-tea session
Australia innings (33.3 overs, 104 runs, 7 wickets)

The much-needed fightback came after lunch, but dropped catches and bad fielding marred it.

In the first over after the break, Martyn shouldered arms to a Harbhajan delivery that would have almost certainly gone on to hit the stumps. Umpire Daar thought otherwise and turned down the appeal.

But in the next over, Kumble struck for the Indians by removing Katich (7). The left-hander was down the wicket to a shortish delivery and got a tickle onto the pad that popped up for Kaif at short-leg. (101 for 4)

Katich seemed to indicate that he did not get a touch by umpire Rudi Koertzen had no hesitation in raising the finger.

Michael Clarke walked in next and from ball one seemed determined to use his feet to every delivery. A superb straight six off Kumble signalled his intentions to all the ground.

Clarke was dropped on 15 at deep mid-wicket, Sehwag the culprit once again and Harbhajan the bowler to suffer yet again. On a pitch that was offering a lot of assistance only the butter-fingers of the Indian fielders denied Harbhajan success.

But Kumble again benefited from an error and added another wicket to his tally. Clarke (17) came down the track, was beaten by the turn and Karthik had the bails off in a jiffy. (121 for 5)

Gilchrist came out next and slogged his way to 26 off 18 balls, inclusive of three boundaries and a six, before Kartik defeated the Australian vice-captain's purpose.

Gilchrist went back to a delivery that was pushed through the air and tried to turn it away to the leg-side, but got an inside edge onto his pad. Kaif, at short-leg, took the catch with ease. (157 for 6)

Gillespie, the new batsman in, took 31 balls to get off the mark but played the important role of giving Martyn good support and frustrating the Indians.

The partnership was worth just 10 and Gillespie was gone after scoring 2 as Kumble claimed his fourth wicket.  (167 for 7)

Martyn brought up his 19th fifty in Test cricket even as the others struggled. It was an invaluable innings and one could see that the right-hander has worked on his technique against spin.

Against the spinners, he took off-stump guard, covering his stumps completely and waiting patiently for the ball on the back foot. It certainly worked for him.

Hauritz, who came in next, was dismissed for a duck, as Kumble claimed his 27th 5-for in Test cricket. (171 for 8)

Martyn's luck finally ran out when an inside edge knocked his stumps back. It was the end of a fine innings, one that may be the difference between victory and defeat.

The right-hander scored 55 off 114 balls, inclusive of three boundaries, and did the required job for the visitors. (184 for 9)

Kasprowicz (19 off 27 balls) used the long handle to good effect and took the Australian total past the 200-run mark before he holed out to Kumble in the deep. The partnership for the 10th wicket was 19 runs. (203 all out)

McGrath was not out on 9 and Australia had a vital lead of 99 runs.

It was also rather odd that despite having a pitch that was so helpful to bowlers, India sent down only five maidens in 61.3 overs in the first innings compared to Australia's 14 in 41.3 overs.

India innings (3 overs, 5 runs)

The writing was on the wall: India needed to play out the short session and keep their wickets intact. That's exactly what Sehwag and Gambhir did.

At close of play, India were five for no loss with Sehwag on 4 and Gambhir on 1.

Ashish Magotra