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Kumble, Pathan send Aussies reeling

Ashish Magotra | January 04, 2004 08:42 IST
Last Updated: January 04, 2004 19:08 IST

Scorecard | Images

Anil Kumble and Irfan Pathan combined to claim five wickets in the last session and send Australia reeling after India declared their first innings closed at 705 for seven on the third day today of the fourth and final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

At close of play, Australia were 342 for the loss of six wickets, with Simon Katich batting on a well-made 51 and Brett Lee yet to get off the mark. They need to score 163 runs to make India bat again.

The last time Australia were forced to follow on was way back in 1988-89 against Pakistan at Karachi. At home, the gap has been even longer -- 1986-87 against England at Brisbane. India are certainly giving Waugh quite a farewell party.

Morning session

India started the day on 650-5. Parthiv Patel (62 off 50 balls) scored his first half-century in Test cricket in fine style and Sachin Tendulkar reached his highest first-class score during the morning session before the inevitable declaration came. Tendulkar's 241 not out is the second highest score by an Indian batsman in Tests.

Patel and Tendulkar were involved in a 101 run partnership, the highest Indian sixth wicket stand against Australia at the SCG.

The Indians started off with a flurry of boundaries -- five came in the first two overs -- before Brett Lee struck. A short ball down the leg-side brought about Patel's downfall. The diminutive wicket-keeper went for the hook, but only succeeded in gloving the ball to his counterpart Adam Gilchrist.

Ajit Agarkar (2) was in next and, predictably, back in the pavilion before long, his stumps shattered by a Brett Lee yorker.

Irfan Pathan then gave Tendulkar good support and the two put on 27 before Sourav Ganguly finally called his men in.

Australian innings

The Indian seamers got no swing at all. Both Agarkar and Pathan tried hard, but were unable to extract any movement in the air or off the pitch.

The Aussies got off to a good start with openers Langer and Hayden employing contrasting styles. But the Indians had the advantage of a huge total and could afford to attack relentlessly. And so they did. The pitch continued to be a batting beauty, but India could afford to buy wickets.

Langer played a few streaky shots, but there was nothing that went to hand. At the other end, Hayden was very particular about his shot selection.

There was some turn for the Indian spinners, Anil Kumble and Murali Kartik, but they only bowled three overs between them before lunch was called.

Post-lunch session

That the Aussies were on a mission was clear immediately after lunch. The first over from Agarkar after the break was hit for seven runs and then followed the onslaught.

Kartik's first over after lunch was slammed for 16 runs. It was clear that the Australians did not want the left-arm orthodox spinner to settle down. They swept him or danced down the pitch and hit with power and purpose. The young bowler conceded 33 runs in his first three overs.

Kartik can be very dangerous on a slow turner. He flights the ball well, I daresay even better than Kumble, and would have been a dangerous opponent on this pitch if he had been allowed to settle down.

The Aussies were brutal on anything loose. Runs came in a torrent as Hayden and Langer paid the Indians back in kind. Langer reached his 50 off just 66 balls. The 100 of the Aussie innings came up in the 23rd over. And that was just the beginning. Things proceeded at an even faster rate thereafter.

Agarkar, Pathan and Kartik were all tried and discarded. But Kumble was a completely different proposition. He has played more Tests than the other three put together and the value of the experience showed. He varied his pace, tried leg-spin, googlies, and was the only bowler to keep the Aussies in check. But, at the other end, the rest of the bowlers were swept away.

Langer, on 67, survived a huge leg-before appeal against Kumble. The bowler ended up right in front of umpire Steve Bucknor at the end of his follow through and Bucknor said he couldn't give a decision because his view was blocked. Replays suggested the ball may have gone on to hit the stumps.

Hayden was starting to impose himself on the Indian bowlers. His 50 came off 69 balls. Clearly, the Aussies were putting their faith in the adage that the best form of defence is attack.

But then, maybe, they attacked a little bit too much. Kumble did the trick for his captain with a well-flighted googly on Hayden's legs. The batsman looked to hit it over mid-on, but miscued the lofted shot to Ganguly, who took a simple catch backing up at mid-off (147-1).

Langer, though, continued undaunted. A four in the same over indicated that he was unfazed. Seventeen boundaries and one six in his 115 showed that he indeed loves batting at the SCG. The last time he played against the Indians at the SCG, he scored 223.

Kartik was reintroduced into the attack at the fall of Hayden's wicket, but was punished again. In seven overs he was slammed for 62 runs as Australia put on 161 runs during the session.

It was odd that Ganguly never decided to use Virender Sehwag's off-spin or Sachin Tendulkar's mix. Kartik was tonked around by the Aussies and it is hard to see how Sehwag and Tendulkar could have done any worse.

At tea, Australia were 210 with Langer on 115 and Ponting on 11.

Post-tea session

Despite some measure of success, the Australian strategy of scoring quick runs in response to the massive Indian total was odd. One would have expected them to take a more controlled approach to their innings. At the end of the day, the quest for quick runs saw them lose vital wickets in the last session.

Kumble deserves a lot of praise for his efforts. He single-handedly put Australia under a lot of pressure.

Langer was dismissed after adding just two runs to his total at tea. He was out trying to sweep a Kumble delivery that pitched on good length and turned in to him. The ball bounced more than he expected and the resultant top edge looped up and Patel made a desperate run to short square-leg and completed a good diving catch (214-2).

Their main tormentor gone, the Indians got their heads up and fought back. Ricky Ponting's wicket four overs later helped a lot.

Kumble was the bowler again. He actually planned this dismissal. The first four balls in the over were slow, looping deliveries. The fifth was his faster one. It hurried on to the batsman and caught him plumb in front of his middle stump. As always, Bucknor took his time giving a decision, but when he did Kumble's joy was uncontrollable (229-3).

Martyn, who came in at Langer's dismissal, never really found his feet against Kumble, who was bowling superbly by now. Those who said Kumble is past his best can well eat their words, because in this series he has time and again proved to be India's saviour.

Steve Waugh walked in at Ponting's dismissal and was given a standing ovation by the huge SCG crowd. He knew that a battle was on, one that would decide the fate of this series.

At 236 for 4, Waugh survived a genuine edge off Kartik. The ball did not go to hand, but Kartik was getting turn after being hit out of the attack by Hayden and Langer.

Martyn, primarily a backfoot player, was the next to go, beaten by Kumble's flight and dismissed in the classic manner, caught and bowled (261-4), to become his 21st victim to be dismissed thus.

This ushered in a period of calm as Australia looked to consolidate. Ganguly brought Agarkar back into the attack and the paceman soon started to get the ball to reverse. Long believed to be a better bowler with the older ball, Agarkar worked up a good rhythm to give Kumble good support.

But the coveted wicket did not come. Slowly the Australian captain started to get his feet moving and the runs started to come. But the reintroduction of Pathan worked for the Indians. Waugh was gone for 40, chasing a delivery angled across him. Patel took the regulation catch (311-5).

The Aussies were now feeling the heat. But Simon Katich brought a positive attitude to the middle and it worked for him.

Adam Gilchrist had most probably never batted in such a situation before. And he seemed to be caught in two minds: whether to attack or defend. A brilliant reverse-swinging yorker from Pathan beat the Australian wicket-keeper (6) all ends up.

At close of play, Australia were 342 for the loss of six wickets with Katich on a well-made 51 and Brett Lee on 0.

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