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Dravid, Laxman prop India

Faisal Shariff | December 13, 2003 08:14 IST
Last Updated: December 13, 2003 14:10 IST


Careless cricket by India saw them end the second day of the second Test against Australia at 180 for 4 after a promising start of 66 runs from openers Akash Chopra and Virender Sehwag.

India lost Sachin Tendulkar for one, caught behind off a careless shot, while Sourav Ganguly was run-out after a mix-up with his deputy, Rahul Dravid.

Three wickets fell with the addition of four runs as India faced the daunting task of avoiding the follow-on.

Dravid and VVS Laxman repaired the innings with a 95-run stand for the fifth wicket. The latter carved a half century under pressure while Dravid gave him ample support with a rock-solid 43.

Earlier in the day, Anil Kumble claimed his maiden five-wicket haul with three wickets in one over -- as Australia were bowled out for 556 with Ricky Ponting top-scoring with a career-best 242.

Morning session:

Two spectacles awaited the spectators at the Adelaide Oval on the second morning; It was the 'Punter' aka Ricky Ponting, on the verge of his second double-century, and Adam Gilchrist show. But the only question on Ganguly's mind was how much longer would it take his bowlers to dismiss the Aussies, while the Aussies must have been in a quandary about when to declare.

Ponting believes Australia's ploy of making India follow-on would be a folly. At first, that sounds bizarre, since the match is being played on Australian soil and not India. Maybe, Ponting probably knows a thing most don't!

Last season, Australia forced England to follow-on in Melbourne and lost the following Test at Sydney. In Barbados this year against the West Indies, the same pattern repeated and the Aussie bowlers lost the Antigua Test in a world record chase.

Another thing that must be playing on Ponting's mind is the defeat at Eden Gardens two years ago, when Australia enforced the follow-on and lost the match after a monumental 281 from VVS Laxman.

At 400-5, the Australian blitz got underway. Gilchrist, trying to make amends after the Brisbane duck, smacked boundaries galore while Ponting was watchful, keen to get his double-century.

All of yesterday the Indians failed to employ the short-ball to good effect. This morning when Agarkar banged one short, Gilchrist pulled him hard and flat, straight to Virender Sehwag at backward square leg.

Gilchrist was gone for a 24-ball 29 and Australia, at 426-6, were recalibrating their strategy.

Sehwag has taken three catches in the innings so far two of them outstanding and yet will remember this Test for dropping Ponting on 8, on day one in the slips.

Ricky PontingPonting, batting with the work ethic of a Sherpa, got his second double-century with his 100th scoring shot.

Dancing down the wicket, he played a mid-wicket hoick, which raced away to the fence for his 26th boundary. By scoring a double century at a strike rate of 70, Ponting has cemented his place in the elite club of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Matthew Hayden.

Ricky Ponting's 29th birthday is a week away, but the celebrations have begun.

When he reached a double century with his 26th boundary, he blew a kiss to his wife in the stands. That wasn't the only blow he affected. Ask the Indian bowlers.

With five centuries --- two double centuries -- in ten Tests this year, at an average of 96, he has outshone Hayden with 1201 runs in a calendar year.

Andy Bichel came and went for 19, caught at forward short leg by Akash Chopra off Anil Kumble, leaving Australia thinking of declaring at 575-600.

Homeboy Jason Gillespie walked out to a huge applause and attacked with good cricketing shots. He outscored Ponting in a quick-fire 50-run partnership for the eighth-wicket off just 61 balls.

Gillespie though was lucky when he hit one straight back to Kumble, who missed the knee-high catch.

At lunch, he had scored 29 of 33 balls and Ponting's innings of 228 had acquired the Duracell effect as it went on and on.

Australia was 523-7 at lunch with their innings depending on how long Ponting can sustain himself at the crease.

Post Lunch session:

Ricky Ponting's epic knock ended after he was surprised by the extra bounce on a Kumble delivery and edged the ball to Rahul Dravid at first slip.

Gillespie batted with confidence for his 48 and added 30 more runs with Ponting in the post-lunch session before the double centurion was gone for 242. To see Ponting fuming after getting out only exemplifies the standards the Aussies set themselves in the field to raise the bar.

It was sweet revenge for Ponting, who had struggled on the tour of India in 2001, when he returned with 17 runs at 3.4 in five innings. His 511-minute stay at the crease saw 29 fours from him and took his run tally in the series to 346 in only three innings.

Three balls later, in the same over, Kumble bowled Brad Williams for a duck and then had Stuart MacGill trapped in front to give the leg-spinner his first five-wicket haul in Australia. Kumble will start the next innings on a hat-trick.

His figures of 5 for 145 off 42.5 overs bettered his previous best of 2-72 in Australia, at the MCG in 1999.

It was his 21st five-wicket haul of his Test career, taking his total Test wickets tally to 363, above Pakistan's Imran Khan on the all-time list.

Indian Innings:

Openers Akash Chopra and Virender Sehwag took a shine to the Aussie bowling despite Jason Gillespie bowling at 140 kmph consistently in the opening spell. Chopra batted solidly yet had a different approach to his game.

At Brisbane, the Delhi opener was too defensive, offering the dead bat even to half volleys and full tosses. Today he was positive, looking for the singles and never failing to punish the loose delivery. And the result was evident. India was matching the Aussie scoring rate at 5 an over, forcing Waugh to effect a bowling change as early as the seventh over.

Sehwag, being the swashbuckler he is, blazed away with some fetching strokes off the Aussie pacers. Consecutive boundaries for him off Bichel saw the Indians score at blistering speed in the tenth over.

Waugh vacated the slips and positioned a short mid-off and mid-on to cut the drives that had fetched 75 per cent of the runs so far.

In the 12th over of the innings, Bichel, who had been collared by the openers, got the breakthrough. Chopra drove the ball to Bichel in his follow through, low and to his left side. Chopra returned to the hut for 27 elegant runs off 44 balls.

Sehwag was fluent on either side and was looking good for a huge score on a shirtfront of a wicket offering no lateral movement to the bowlers. But his buoyancy got the better of him as he edged one from Bichel to widish second slip, Hayden.

His innings of 47 from 41 balls was terminated and India was 81-2 at tea with Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar at the crease.

Post Tea Session:

Tendulkar, looking to get some runs under his belt in the Test series, almost got into a tangle in a desperate to get off the mark.

Playing the ball into the covers, he set off for a single, then hesitated and then started off again, making his ground in a photo-finish to beat Langer's direct throw.

Tendulkar's confidence seemed like an open box of turpentine, evaporating with every passing minute at the crease. Off the sixth ball he faced, he chose to play an extravagant drive, got a nick that was accepted by Adam Gilchrist behind the wicket and Andy Bichel was hopping with joy.

With a mediocre showing at Brisbane in the first Test, and a second-rate opening spell, Bichel came back with three wickets and saved his Test career.

Tendulkar was walking back with one run against his name and conceded the psychological advantage to the Aussies. The master batsman's career over the past 18 months has been quite a contrast in the two versions of the game. In one-dayers he has scored1141 runs this year with two man-of-the-series awards.

Since the New Zealand tour in December last year, Tendulkar's scores in six Tests have been 8, 51, 9, 32, 8, 7, 55, 1, 0 and 1.

Skipper Ganguly walked out to bat and was stroking the ball well on the back of his 144 at Brisbane, before calamity struck.

Ganguly pushed at a delivery from Gillespie towards mid-on and set off for a single, then called for another run. Dravid started off and then suddenly refused the run. MacGill collected the ball and knocked off the bails with Ganguly out of his crease. The third umpires, after seeing several replays, showed the red light and India, 81-2 at tea, were suddenly staring down the barrel at 85-4 at the start of the final session of the day.

The six overs after tea saw India lose two wickets with the addition of nine runs. Careless cricket from the Indians put them in a precarious position.

Here was a wicket full of runs and India had lost its best batsman, Tendulkar, and the man-in-form Ganguly for next to nothing. That forced the men at the crease, Laxman and Dravid, to change gears and do a repair job instead of playing their natural game and making most of the ideal batting conditions.

The 16 overs after tea saw only 38 runs being scored, with Laxman curbing his natural stroke play at the crease.

The Aussie attack is really nothing much to ride home as was evident from the way the openers and, then later, Dravid and Sehwag played them. There was the odd flourish from Laxman's bat, like the successive fours off MacGill's over but otherwise it was a game of barricading the Aussies from having any more successes on the second day.

Despite the rearguard action Laxman registered yet another half-century with a predominant off-side game.

At stumps, India was 180 for 4, with Laxman set on 55 and Dravid batting rock-solid on 43. The 95-run partnership between the two saw India get home without any further damage.

And as a tailpiece, a word of applause for Steve Waugh for his imaginative captaincy. He set defensive fields, dried up the boundaries and frustrated the Indian batsmen into making mistakes. With a mediocre attack - barring Gillespie - the Australians have done a great job by claiming four wickets on a shirtfront of a wicket ideally suited for the Indian strokemakers.

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