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Waugh shines in drawn Test

Ashish Magotra | January 06, 2004 08:39 IST
Last Updated: January 06, 2004 14:11 IST

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India retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy after the fourth and final Test against Australia ended in a draw at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday

When play ended, Australia, chasing 443 for victory, were 357 for 6 in their second innings. Simon Katich (77) and Jason Gillespie (19) were unbeaten.

Sachin Tendulkar was adjudged man-of-the match for scoring 301 runs (241 not out and 70 not out) in the Test.

The man-of-the-series award went to Rahul Dravid, who aggregated 619 runs, at an average of 123.80 in the series.

A lasting impression from this Test will be the realization that the Waugh era is finally over.

Morning session

The Indians struck early in the morning session to claim the wickets of Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer but not before the duo had put on some quick runs.

A drizzle forced the players off the field after just two overs were bowled and there was a lingering fear that Steve Waugh's last Test would have rain as a spectator too.

But the drizzle stopped and the Indian players were back in a jiffy -- the floodlights ensuring that overs were not lost.

Langer and Hayden began as they always do, going for their shots and scoring at over four an over against the new ball. They would have known that it is the only chance for them to put on some quick runs. Langer took three fours off Irfan Pathan's first over after play resumed. Once the spinners come into effect on a fifth day pitch things will be completely different, as events proved later.

Anil Kumble's introduction into the attack brought some sanity to the proceedings. India were desperately unlucky as Ajit Agarkar produced some good inswinging deliveries to Langer. Twice the ball pitched in line with the leg-stump, straightened and trapped Langer right in front. But umpire Bucknor gave the batsman a lease of life both times.

Finally, Kumble was the one to get the breakthrough. A well flighted googly induced the edge from Hayden (30), who had shaped to drive the ball, Rahul Dravid took the catch easily. (75-1)

Kartik's bowling would be crucial. For India, it will be the difference between a win and a draw. If the left-arm orthodox spinner can give Kumble the support he needs, the Aussies are sure to struggle.

Langer decided that attack is the best policy against Kartik - hit him out of Ganguly's plans. But the bowler had time to assess his bowling after the first innings hammering and this time was better prepared. He beat Langer in the flight; the batsman tried to hit over mid-off, but gave a simple catch to Virender Sehwag. Langer was on 47. (92 for 2)

Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn played carefully till the break. At lunch, Australia were still 326 runs in arrears. They have 67 overs, at 4.86 an over, to get the runs.

Post Lunch session

The gods appear to be conspiring against an Indian victory. And so are the umpires. They seem blinded by emotion -- Steve Waugh's last Test -- and Australia's record.

Parthiv Patel did not help matters when he missed a regulation stumping just after tea. His third clear mistake of the match and most probably the costliest.

With Australia two down for 124, Ponting, who was on 15, charged Kartik. The ball turned after pitching in the rough outside the off-stump and beat the batsman completely. Patel had clear sight of the ball all along and it was appalling to see an international wicket-keeper miss such an easy chance.

In the first innings he gifted lives to Katich and Gillespie. All the runs scored from that partnership made sure that Ganguly would not be able to enforce the follow-on. Patel's inability to rise with the ball proved to be his undoing again in the second innings.

At the Test level the ball is bound to do something and a decent wicket-keeper should be able to cope with it. But Patel, quite clearly, was all at sea. He will need to polish his 'keeping' skills if he wants to retain his place in the team.

The umpires appeared benevolent towards the Australians. A plumb leg before decision against Martyn, on 22, was overruled by Billy Bowden. Kumble, quite obviously, couldn't believe his eyes. It was the third such appeal that had gone against the Indians. Australia were 136 at that stage.

This ushered in a period of lull in the proceedings. Kumble and Kartik, bowling in tandem, did not concede too many runs. But they didn't trouble the batsmen either.

Reminiscent of a one-day match situation, Australia needed 283 runs in 50 overs with eight wickets in hand at this stage. It was during this period that Ganguly's captaincy was unimaginative. With nothing happening he could have tried something out of the ordinary. Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag or even he could have turned his arm over and forced the batsmen into doing something silly.

In a throwback to the Indian teams of the 60s and 70s, Ganguly, quite strangely, adopted a safety first approach. Kumble eventually got Martyn. The batsman tried to sweep fine and the top edge went straight to substitute Yuvraj Singh at short fine-leg.

Memories of the World Cup were revived as the huddle made a reappearance.

Then suddenly the atmosphere became charged and the stadium erupted as Steve Waugh walked out to bat one last time. And a familiar situation greeted him -- match in balance and history in his hands. He knew a few wickets could turn the tide fully in India's favour. He was a bit edgy, understandably. Ponting gave him an animated welcome to the wicket... a few words of encouragement.

The last Australia skipper to leave on a losing note was Lindsay Hasset in 1953.

Waugh was quickly off the mark with a boundary off Kartik, but in a same over a top edge, while playing the sweep, ended up just short of Pathan at square leg.

The much-awaited bowling change came when Pathan was introduced. He got the ball to reverse swing and a leading edge from Ponting flew straight back to him. Ponting was gone for 47. (196 - 4)

Simon Katich (3) and Waugh (19) played out the remaining overs safely. At tea, Australia were 204 for 4.

In the session, India claimed two wickets and conceded 87 runs in 32 overs.

Post Tea session

It is hard to imagine a team going into the last day with 433 to defend and yet be defensive in field placings. But that's exactly what Ganguly -- normally very aggressive -- did. Tactically, the Indian skipper has never been great; he tends to inspire and lead by example, but this was bad captaincy.

One got the feeling that he was pleased to finish with a draw. In cricket, or in any sport, you cannot afford to rest on your laurels. One can question how badly he wanted to win this Test?

The final session of an absorbing Test series surprisingly saw Pathan being taken out of the attack immediately. Rather odd, considering that he got India the last wicket to fall and was getting the ball to reverse swing. As it turned out, he was kept out of the attack for the entire session!

Tendulkar was introduced into the attack in place of Pathan and bowled four overs for 18 runs in his first spell. But there was not much happening as a whole. The Aussies took the sting out of the Indian attack but made sure they were within striking range of launching an all-out attack. The threat of Adam Gilchrist coming out and hammering some very quick runs always hung over the Indians.

Katich and Waugh both played superbly getting a boundary almost every over -- taking full toll of the loose deliveries. The left-hander carried the confidence of his first innings century into the second innings. His footwork was very assured right from the start and he looked all set to assume Steve Waugh's role in the team.

With the total on 283/4 -- Katich spooned a Kumble delivery but it just eluded Agarkar, running back from mid-on. The odd ball did a bit, jumped and turned, but the pitch as a whole played very well. Almost too well for the Indians.

The Aussies looked very secure at the wicket and a draw looked destined with around 15 overs still to go in the day.

The game was brought to life only very late in the evening as Waugh tried to get to a memorable century. Only four Australians have scored a century in their last innings, the last being Greg Chappel, 182, against Pakistan at Sydney in 1984.

But his charge came to an end when he top-edged a Kumble delivery to deep mid-wicket, where Tendulkar took the catch. As he was dismissed you could almost hear the 27,000-plus crowd heave a collective sigh. And then as the enormity of the situation sunk in, the deafening cheers broke through the silence. The Indians joined in the applause as one of the world's greatest made his way to the pavilion that one last time.

The emotionally charged atmosphere was taken to new heights by Gilchrist's strange dismissal. The Australian wicket-keeper mis-read a googly from Kumble; Patel -- as has been the norm in this Test -- fumbled and the ball went off his body, onto the stumps and dislodged the bail before Gilchrist's back foot could reach the crease. It was a dismissal that would not be very out of place in Ripley's 'Believe It Or Not'.

With 4.1 overs to go for the end of the day, India's hopes were suddenly raised. Seven men were placed around the bat -- all waiting to grab any chance that might come their way. But Gillespie defended stoutly to make sure that Test cricket's most successful skipper did not go out on a losing note.

It was a historic series; India broke many records as they matched Australia in every department of the game. In the end, it was only fitting that the series was tied 1-1. As for the Indian team, their level of play in the Test series exceeded what even their bravest fans might have expected.

Let's hope they carry on the good showing in the one-day series which commences on January 9, at Melbourne.

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