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India make a point in drawn Test

Faisal Shariff | December 08, 2003 08:34 IST
Last Updated: December 08, 2003 15:47 IST

Scorecard | Images

The Gabba witnessed a draw, with Indian coming out on top in the first Test.

Sourav Ganguly's men finished with more positives than the Australians, who seem overawed by the `Farewell Series' for skipper Steve Waugh.

Just as the Test was heading for a draw late in the evening, the Aussie skipper declared his second innings at 284 for 3, setting India a target of 199 off 23 overs.

India lost its openers off successive deliveries, but VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid saw off the remaining overs, scoring 73 runs off 16 overs.

Even Dravid, who failed in the first innings, managed to score 43 from 47 balls, his highest score in Australia.

India now goes into the second Test at Adelaide with all its top batsmen amongst the runs and a new found confidence to take on the Australians on their soil.

Ganguly won the man of the match award for his 144 that saw the Indians take the first innings lead.

With Sachin Tendulkar getting a duck in a dubious manner, the Aussies can be sure of a tall score soon from his blade.

Earlier in the morning, the Indian tail wagged for long, adding 47 important runs thanks to a ninth-wicket partnership between Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh of 41 runs.

India were bowled out for 409 in their first innings, taking a psychological lead of 86 runs.

Matthew Hayden got the second innings of to a screaming start but was unfortunate to miss his maiden hundred of the series by one run.  

Morning session:

India lost Ajit Agarkar to the first ball of the morning, nicking a delivery from Andy Bichel to Matthew Hayden at first slip.

In the very next over, Parthiv Patel, who batted with remarkable equanimity on Sunday evening, succumbed while hooking a short ball from Gillespie. Andy Bichel held onto the catch, running around the boundary line.

Both the overnight batsmen did not add to their scores. As the Indian batting seemed to be crumbling without a fight on the fifth morning, Zaheer Khan walked in and began with a crisp cover drive. The confidence seeped through to Harbhajan Singh at the other end and a flurry of boundaries followed.

Zaheer, riding his pristine confidence against the Aussies, showed intent in staying at the crease and making a contribution with the bat. A 41-run partnership ensued, which helped India cross the psychological barrier of 400 runs on the board. Khan brought up the 400 with a straight six of Nathan Bracken.

Stuart MacGill picked the last two wickets, that of Zaheer and Ashish Nehra, as India were bowled out for 409, with a lead of 86 runs. India's last five batsmen gave a sterling performance scoring 95 runs and staying at the crease for 287 minutes.

More importantly, it set the tone for the series. 

Statistician Rajneesh Gupta points out that it is the first time a visiting team took a first innings lead since New Zealand in 2001 at Perth.  

SeasonVenueInns1 Inns2 Inns3 Inns4 Result
1998-99KingstonAus256WI 431Aus177WI 3-0WI won by 10 wickets
1999-00KandyAus188SL 234Aus140-8dSL 95-4SL won by 6 wickets
1999-00GalleSL 296Aus228SL 55-0  Drawn
2000-01ChennaiAus391Ind501Aus264Ind155-8Ind won by 2 wickets
2001-02Perth NZ 534-9dAus351NZ 256-9dAus381-7Drawn
2003-04BrisbaneAus323Ind403    Match in progress

Sourav Ganguly swapped bowling partners and gave the new ball to Ajit Agarkar instead of Ashish Nehra. The move paid off, with Agarkar getting Justin Langer – centurion of the first innings – to edge one that swung away from the batsman to the keeper.

An exhibition of controlled fast bowling followed. Zaheer tied Hayden up in knots with immaculate length while Ponting looked like a shaky debutant against Ajit Agarkar's swinging probe. Ponting played and missed consistently and it was a miracle that he was at the crease at lunch.

But Khan went off the ground nursing a hamstring, Agarkar ran out of steam and Nehra continued to stray in length, allowing the Aussie batters some breathing space. Hayden swung his bat around and was on 41 at lunch with Australia 59-1.

Post-lunch session: 

Time is relative, especially when Matthew Hayden is at the crease. On 41 at lunch, he attacked the Indian bowlers, and Ponting at the other end also got into the act. Together they plundered 37 runs in the first four overs after lunch, including six boundaries, to bring up a 100-run stand off 127 balls. 63 of those runs came off Hayden's bat. 

With spearhead Zaheer off the field with a tight hamstring, there was no respite for the Indian bowlers as the Aussies scored at almost six an over. 

Ponting reached his second fifty of the Test and off the next ball was caught slashing at Nehra straight to Virender Sehwag, who took a blinder at gully. Australia, at 146-2, were keen on ending the Test with a fitting riposte to the Indian attack.

Hayden was unrelenting against Harbhajan, singling him out for special treatment. He scored 24 runs off 19 balls from the off-spinner and slapped Nehra for a six over mid-wicket to reach 99. But a hundred was not to be. He missed a sweep off Harbhajan that must have missed the leg-stump by a millimeter. Still in attacking mode, he swept hard and in the air for Sehwag to swallow the ball at the square leg fence. 

Hayden's 99 came at a frenetic pace, off just 98 balls with 10 boundaries and a couple of sixes. 

Steve Waugh, the next man in, waited for Hayden to receive his accolades before walking out to the middle. He was criticized for overshadowing Langer's century effort in the first innings by walking out too soon. 

The pressure on Waugh has been enormous ever since he announced his retirement plans four Tests ahead of time. The decision is intriguing and self-seeking.

When Wayne Gretzky, arguably the world's greatest ice hockey player, decided to quit after 21 seasons, he didn't announce it till the end of the season, not wanting to distract the team from their goal; neither did he want a grand farewell tour.

Why Waugh chose to announce his decision despite the rumours of a deal cracked between him and the selectors to play the final Test series against India at home and then call it quits, is a mystery. 

Suppose India manages to win a Test or Waugh fails with the bat in the next 2-3 innings, where would that leave Waugh and his plans of quitting in grand style?

Luck, however, continued to sit in Waugh's back pocket as he survived against Harbhajan when on 8. Stepping out to play the bowler, he failed to pick the line and was out of his crease only for Patel to miss a simple stumping. The off-spinner has already dismissed Waugh thrice in the last four Tests they have faced off and this dismissal would have ensured that Harbhajan would have had the wood on the Aussie skipper. 

At tea, Australia were 227-3, with Damien Martyn batting on 33 and Waugh unbeaten on 36. 

Post Tea session

Steve Waugh loves drama. Just as the Test was heading for a draw, the Aussie skipper declared his second innings and set India a target of 199 off 23 overs, after Damien Martyn and he registered half-centuries.

It was an alluring, yet dodgy target. Scoring at 8.6 was a huge task but the Indian batters, if they decided to chase, would have had to sustain the pace for the 23 overs.  

As Waugh, who walked off the pitch acknowledging the crowd cheering his last Test innings at the Gabba, the declaration seemed anchored in safety. Two years ago on the same ground, he had set New Zealand a target of 284 in 57 overs and almost lost the Test as Chris Cairns and Craig McMillan playing cameos. The Kiwis fell short by 10 runs, with Glen McGrath bowling wide outside off-stump.

Waugh truly estimated the Indians far ahead of New Zealand in setting set them 199 in 23 overs. Instead of scoring psychological points over India, the target must have been flattering for India. 

India suffered an initial hiccup when Nathan Bracken snapped up Sehwag and Akash Chopra off successive deliveries. 

At 4 for 2, India seemed to be in a spot of bother but VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid sailed India to safety before the game was called off after 16 overs with the Indian score reading 73 for 2.

Even Dravid, who failed in the first innings, managed to score 43 off 47 balls, his highest score in Australia.

So India now goes into the second Test at Adelaide with all its top batsmen having got decent time in the middle and good scores behind them.   

In the twilight of his career Waugh surely must have learnt that discretion is the better part of valour.

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