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India eye rare win at Adelaide

Faisal Shariff | December 15, 2003 08:59 IST
Last Updated: December 15, 2003 22:25 IST

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An inspired spell of seam bowling by Ajit Agarkar on a hot day in Adelaide today saw Australia collapse to 196 all out in their second innings, setting India a reasonable target of 230 runs in 100 overs to win the second Test in Adelaide.

Agarkar picked up six wickets as the Aussies were bowled out in 56.2 overs, losing their last five wickets for a mere 13 runs.

At stumps, India had reached 37 without loss, and now need 193 runs on the final day to win their first Test in Australia since Melbourne, 1981. Virender Sehwag, with a breezy 25 off 27 balls, and Akash Chopra, with 10, saw India safely through to stumps.

Earlier, wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist had threatened to take the game away from the Indians as he smacked a quickfire 43 from 45 balls before legspinner Anil Kumble bowled him round his legs to expose the brittle Australian tail.

Morning session:

Steve Waugh probably made a smart move by announcing his retirement at the end of this series. In any case it would have been difficult for him to continue as captain after his team has struggled to dominate the Indian batsmen -- who, according to some of them, can't face the 'chin music'.

Anything Australia has dished out so far, India has matched. Australia scored 500 plus in the first innings. India followed suit. Aussie vice-captain Ricky Ponting scored a double ton. Indian vice-captain Rahul Dravid did likewise.

The only batsman in Test history to end a day not out 199, Dravid reached the magical double hundred off the first ball of the fourth morning.

Rocking back to a long hop from leggie Stuart MacGill, Dravid sent the ball crashing into the advertising boards to get to 203. Dravid now has four double centuries and joins an elite club whose members include Greg Chappell, Gordon Greenidge, Sunil Gavaskar, Len Hutton and Zaheer Abbas. Among contemporaries, only Brain Lara and Marvan Atapattu have more double centuries (five each).

It was sweet revenge for Dravid whose batting averages had been messed up by the Australians on India's last tour Down Under in 1999-2000. Dravid had arrived in Australia with an enviable reputation as a technician and a Test average of 52.68. Three Tests later, his average had dropped to 48.70. Since then, Dravid had been itching to have another go at the Aussies on their soil.

The Australians eventually broke through when Kumble, who had given Dravid ample support, playing straight and rotating the strike, tried a pre-determined sweep and was trapped plumb in front by MacGill. That ended a 41 run stand for the eighth wicket and also gave MacGill his first wicket of the Test in his 40th over (510-8).

A little later, debutant Irfan Pathan was gone. The lefthander tried to smack a full toss from MacGill straight back past the bowler, who was going round the wicket, but MacGill put out his right arm and the ball stuck in his palm (518-9).

MacGill, thus, had two tailenders' wickets to his name after toiling for almost two days against the Indians, who never gave him a sliver of hope on Days 2 and 3. Though he is a bigger turner of the ball than Shane Warne, who is serving a one-year suspension for drug use, MacGill comes across as a one-dimensional bowler without a great googly. Moreover, he is unable to bowl a persistent line and offers too many loose deliveries to build pressure.

Dravid, meanwhile, was cruising past records. He first passed Ravi Shastri's 206, made at Sydney in the third Test of the 1991-92 series as the highest score by an Indian in Australia. He then went on to overhaul Gavaskar's score of 221 at The Oval in 1979 as the highest individual overseas score recorded by an Indian.

After 46 runs had been added to India's overnight total, Dravid's 600 minute vigil came to an end as he hooked a short ball from Jason Gillespie for Andy Bichel to swallow the skier at square-leg. Dravid amassed 233 runs off 446 balls, not a bad strike rate for someone often criticised as a stonewaller. Also, in Dravid's company, the last five Indian batsmen put on a total of 55 runs and faced 147 deliveries, making the difference between a total of 450 and 523.

Australian innings:

The Indian bowlers, soaking in the confidence from their batting performance yesterday and this morning, returned to strike early. Agarkar did not waste much time starting the demolition job, trapping Justin Langer plumb in front for 10 in just the third over.

The dismissal brought first innings double centurion Ricky Ponting to the crease. But after struggling for 17 balls, which included a confident leg-before shout by Irfan Pathan, Ponting played a fierce cut off Agarkar, only to be snapped up by Akash Chopra at point for a blob.

With that, Ponting too joined a select band. Only four batsmen before Ponting (West Indians Seymour Nurse and Viv Richards, Pakistani Imtiaz Ahmed, and South African Dudley Nourse) had scored a double century and a duck in the same Test.

The two quick wickets meant the Australians could not have a relaxed lunch break.

Post-lunch session: 

The Indian bowlers, meanwhile, were smacking their lips at the prospect of packing the Aussies off quickly. Sticking to the basics of line and length, they challenged the world champions and did not allow them to play their natural game.

The Australians were clearly under pressure and it showed when Matthew Hayden and Damien Martyn abandoned their usual flourish for dour defence. The Aussies have in recent years set new benchmarks in scoring rates in Test cricket. Even on the first day of this Test, they scored at 4.3 runs an over. But now they were struggling along at under 3 runs an over.

Skipper Ganguly then effected a bowling change that worked. Off the second ball of his spell, left-arm quick Ashish Nehra picked up Hayden who drove the ball on the up, only to be snapped inches off the ground by Virender Sehwag diving forwards in the covers. Hayden departed for 17 and Australia were 44-3 in 15.2 overs at 2.86 runs an over.

Australian captain Steve Waugh then walked in to applause. Ganguly, however, had a different welcome waiting for him. A short-leg, a leg slip, a deep backward square-leg, and a packed offside field.

Come to think of it, it is rather ironic that Ganguly has been considered a short ball bunny Down Under. After his epic 144 in Brisbane, all that talk is faint. But what about his counterpart who, after 167 Tests, still struggles against the short stuff with fielders closing in on him?

On a fourth-day pitch with the ball not coming up off the deck, Waugh was hopping against the short-pitched stuff. While Martyn continued to play all around the park, the Indian bowlers were successful in containing Waugh. Eighty per cent of his runs came through the offside. He got only nine runs through the onside.

Ganguly then played another masterstroke and brought Sachin Tendulkar into the attack. The ball practically began to talk. Martyn reached out to drive a seemingly juicy legbreak pitched on the off-stump, but only succeeded in getting a thick edge and Dravid at first slip took a spectacular one-handed catch as the ball threatened to speed through the vacant second slip.

Martyn was gone for 38 runs and Australia were once again precariously placed at 109-4. The 65 run partnership between him and Waugh had threatened to put India out of the match.

Simon Katich was welcomed to the crease with another legbreak that beat his bat and missed the off-stump by a few inches.

In Tendulkar's very next over, the last one before tea, Waugh played an imitation of Martyn's drive and edged another legbreak, but this time it flew straight to Dravid at first slip.

Waugh had played his last innings at the Adelaide Oval and walked back to the pavilion to a gentle reception for 42, his team in deep trouble against what many had presumed would be pushovers.

Australia's lead at this stage was 145, and India was very much in the running for a rare Test win.

Post-tea session:

At the start of the fourth day's play, the focus had been on what total Australia would set India to chase on the final day. Two sessions later, the world champions were fighting a battle for survival in their own backyard.

As far as the Indians were concerned, Gilchrist was the only man standing between them and the tail.

The Australian 'keeper did not waste time taking the attack to the Indians. He sent Kumble soaring over the mid-wicket fence for six, then smacked a couple of fours to race away to 14 in no time.

And then came a gaffe that could still prove costly. Gilchrist charged down the wicket to Kumble, missed the line of the ball completely, and was stranded. Fortunately for him, however, Parthiv Patel behind the stumps failed to gather the ball. By the time the little 'keeper had found and picked up the ball to dislodge the bails, Gilchrist had regained his crease.

This was Patel's second big miss in this series. He had missed stumping Waugh in the second innings at Brisbane when the Australian captain had made just eight runs. Waugh went on to score a half-century.

When Patel muffed the Gilchrist stumping, Australia were 131-5. With that crucial wicket in the bag, India could have got a stranglehold on the match.

But Gilchrist batted with aplomb and scattered the field with his attacking strokes. Never failing to punish a loose ball, he soon forced Tendulkar out of the attack.

Instead of falling back on one of his specialist seamers, Ganguly then tried another part-time spinner Virender Sehwag. It did not prove to be a good move.

The 50 partnership came up in just 48 balls with Gilchrist scoring 33 of those runs in 31 balls while Katich contributed 17. The 150 was up and the game appeared to be drifting away from the Indians.

But Kumble is one man who never says die, no matter how desperate the situation may appear. And he ultimately got his reward as Gilchrist was bowled round his legs trying to flick a straighter one pitched on leg-stump, much to Patel's relief and delight.

Gilchrist, in his 60 minute stay at the crease, had piled up 71 runs with Katich and Australia had seemingly recovered to 183-6.

His dismissal was just the break India needed. Agarkar bowled Andrew Bichel in the next over and Australia, at 184-7, had their backs to the wall once again.

For the second time in the Test, Agarkar, bowling probably the best spell of his career, tested Katich with a short ball and was rewarded. Katich tried to hook and was snapped up by Nehra in the deep (188-8). In the first innings, Sehwag had pulled off a spectacular catch running around the fine-leg fence and diving forward to grab the ball inches off the turf.

Gillespie then edged Agarkar to the 'keeper, giving him his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests. His previous best was 3-43 against Australia at the same ground in 1999-2000. 

In his next over, Agarkar knocked MacGill's off-stump back as the No 11 tried to slog him over mid-wicket to end with 6-41 and match figures of 8-160. 

Australia had been bowled out for 196 in 56.2 overs, setting India a target of 230. This is as good a chance as any that India will get to win a Test on Australian soil, a feat that seemed an impossible dream until this tour began.

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