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The Final Frontier crumbles
Ashish Magotra |
October 29, 2004 12:25 IST
Last Updated: October 29, 2004 20:38 IST
Scoreboard | Images from day 4 | Aussies victorious
Poor batting by the Indian top order for the second time in three days saw India crash to a 342-run defeat, its biggest ever in terms of runs, on day 4 of the third Test against Australia, at the Vidharba Cricket Association stadium on Friday.
Set 543 to win the match or even earn a draw, after the Aussies declared their second innings at 329 for the loss of five wickets a little before lunch, India were bowled out for 200 in their second innings.
All the top batsmen, barring Virender Sehwag, flopped. The dashing opener batted in his customary carefree fashion even though wickets kept falling at the other end to score 58 runs (94 balls, 8 fours).
Ajit Agarkar (44) and Parthiv Parthiv Patel (32) were the others to offer resistance, after Akash Chopra (1), Rahul Dravid (2), Sachin Tendulkar (2), VVS Laxman (2) and Mohammad Kaif (7) were back in the pavilion with the Indian total reading 37 for 5.
Jason Gillespie claimed four wickets for 24 runs to add to the five he picked in the first innings.
Morning session (Australia 127 runs, 2 wickets, 25.1 overs; India 1 runs, 1 over)
The Indian bowlers stuck to defensive lines -- way outside the off-stump or on the leg-stump; the field was spread out and not even the new ball, taken in the 83rd over, could dislodge the Aussie overnight batsmen, Clarke and Martyn.
India's focus on day 4 was to save the match. The biggest problem for the hosts was that Australia already had enough runs -- 415 -- on board at the end of day 3 and in the morning session they were under no pressure whatsoever.
But it was Clarke who started playing some unbelievable shots as he tried to get to his century before the declaration. He reached his 50 off 79 balls, inclusive of eight boundaries.
An Agarkar over, the 91st of the innings, provided the gist of the session. The first ball was hooked by Martyn for four, the second was hit through square-leg for two; Martyn was dropped by Sehwag on 84 and the batsmen scampered through for a single off the third; the fourth ball saw Clarke produce the shot of the match for me. He charged down the wicket to a short delivery and clubbed it for six over long-off.
Agarkar tried to come back with a bouncer, but that was guided to fine leg for another four. The next ball was dispatched one-bounce to the mid-wicket boundary.
21 runs came from the over. The first ten overs with the new ball yielded 68 runs for the Aussies.
As Agarkar walked back to the boundary, the crowd got on his case. But it wasn't easy bowling to Clarke, considering the kind of touch he is in. He was playing strokes one hasn't seen on the cricket field for a long, long time.
Clarke was eventually dismissed on 73, which came off 95 balls. It included 11 boundaries and one six. He tried to smash Kumble through mid-wicket, but found the only close-in fielder, Kaif, in the circle. (319 for 4)
The Aussie duo put on 148 runs in 33.3 overs, at 4.42 runs per over.
By this time, whatever little resistance and spirit remained with the Indians was stamped out by Australia's ruthless approach.
Adam Gilchrist joined Martyn at the wicket, but the partnership didn't last too long. Martyn was caught in the slips off Zaheer for 97 (184 balls, 8 boundaries). The right-hander was the third Australian batsman, after Clarke in the first innings and Katich in the second, to be dismissed in the nineties in this match. Had Martyn got a century, he would have become only the second Australian after Sir Donald Bradman to score a century in each innings of a Test against India.
Australia immediately declared the innings on 329 for the loss of five wickets. The overall lead for the visitors was a mammoth 542 runs.
The Indians had just one over to tackle before lunch.
The Aussies started with a very defensive field. Akash Chopra, was on strike, and the fielders, with the exception of the slips, were all at the boundary. The visitors wanted Virender Sehwag on strike. The right-hander's attacking instincts are a plus most of the time, but with just one over to go he needed to shut shop.
Chopra negotiated the first four balls of the over and took a single off the fifth ball to leave Sehwag with just one delivery to play.
At lunch, India were 1 for no loss, with Chopra on 1 and Sehwag yet to open his account.
Post-lunch session (83 runs, 5 wickets, 26-overs)
If we must die -- oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
-- 'If we must die' by Claude McKay
Sixty minutes into the second session, the match was over for all intent and purposes. India had lost the wickets of Chopra, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Mohammad Kaif.
Two overs after the break, Chopra (1) was clean bowled by Gillespie. The ball pitched outside the off-stump and cut in sharply after pitching; Chopra was late on the ball as it crashed into the top of the middle stump. (1 for 1)
As Chopra disappeared into the dressing room, one could not help but get the feeling that he is in for a long break from international cricket. In four innings in this series he has only 15 runs to his name.
Dravid was in next and out in a jiffy, Gillespie doing the damage again. The ball was similar to the one that got Chopra, the only difference being that Dravid, for the umpteenth time, got an inside edge onto the stumps. (2 for 9)
Tendulkar walked in to a standing ovation as he had in the first innings. Maybe, just maybe, he could help India gain respectability, if nothing else.
But Tendulkar was out after scoring just 2, driving awkwardly at a McGrath delivery that jumped off a length. The batsman could do little but fend at it and pop a catch to Martyn at point.
If Aussie smiles could get bigger, they did. India were out of the game and there was a real possibility of the match getting over today itself. It was also Glenn McGrath's 450th wicket in Test cricket. (20 for 3)
The Australian paceman has a stranglehold over the little master. By claiming his wicket for the sixth time in nine Tests, McGrath became Tendulkar's top bogeyman. Gillespie has claimed Tendulkar's wicket five times in eight Tests.
Laxman and the last remaining memories of Kolkata 2001 strode out together. The right-hander's form has been wretched. Five innings at an average of 12.75 isn't the kind of return one expects from a batsman of his class. Today, India more than ever needed him to come good, but his luck refused to change.
Kasprowicz replaced McGrath in the attack. His first ball was short and outside the off-stump; Laxman went for the hook, connected well, but, unfortunately, straight down the throat of McGrath at fine leg. (29 for 4)
The next time Australia plays India, there will be no talk of Kolkata.
Kaif, coming in after back-to-back half-centuries, played with energy for a few runs. One could see he was trying to fight the inevitable, but, like the others, he too perished.
A good length delivery outside the off stump from Kasprowicz seamed just enough to take the edge. Gilchrist dived full length to his right and took it in front of first slip. (35 for 5)
At this stage, Sehwag had scored 22 and very little had come from the others.
It was also interesting to note that India had 149 extras in six innings as opposed to the Aussies, who, in five innings, have conceded 58 till now in the match. Added to that is the difference in the fielding of both sides, which invariably means the Aussies start every match with a huge advantage.
Patel walked in next and he must have been very well aware that, in the aftermath of this defeat, his head might be among the first ones to roll. But, to his credit, he did not take the easy way out.
He stuck it out in the middle and provided Sehwag the support he so desperately needed.
At tea, India were 84 for 5, with Sehwag on 49 and Patel on a well composed 21. In the 26-over session, the hosts scored 83 runs and lost five wickets.
Post-tea session (117 runs, 5 wickets, 26.3 overs)
The fightback did not last long after tea. The Aussies returned after evaluating how to get Sehwag out and then stuck to the plan.
Warne returned after the break, bowling way outside leg-stump and forcing Sehwag to pad the ball. The ploy was simple: frustrate Sehwag and he will get out. It worked.
Sehwag danced down the track, looking to smash Warne out of the park, but did not get to the pitch of the ball. He went through the shot anyway and the top-edge carried to Clarke in the covers. (102 for 6)
The sixth-wicket partnership was worth 65 and rescued the Indians from the depths of mediocrity. Sehwag scored 58, the highest score for the Indians.
Patel was gone 12 runs later after scoring a gritty 32. Gillespie was getting the ball to move off the wicket even in the 35th over and the delivery that got Patel pitched outside the off, straightened to take the edge on its way through to Gilchrist. (114 for 7)
Kumble (2) departed soon after, clean bowled by Gillespie. Karthik chanced his arm around to score 22 off 27 balls before McGrath got him to edge one to the Gilchrist.
Zaheer Khan and Agarkar put on a whirlwind 52 runs in 40 balls for the last wicket to give the spectators something to cheer about. But the wicket had to fall, and it did. Zaheer was caught brilliantly at deep mid-wicket by Martyn off Warne and the 'Final Frontier' was conquered, at last.
India were all out for 200. Zaheer was dismissed for 25 and Agarkar was left stranded on 44.
Going back to 2001, so great were Gillespie's efforts in the third Test in Chennai then that Cricket Australia (then the Australian Cricket Board) gave the fast bowler permission to skip the five-match ODI series immediately after.
Today was redemption time for Gillespie; he claimed 4 for 24 in the second innings to add to his five-wicket haul of the first. Indeed, he played a major role in Australia's triumph.
Australia won by 342 runs. For the likes of Warne and McGrath -- who are probably on their last tour of India -- it was the culmination of years of hard work.