More than 20,000 walked through the turnstiles, many of them hoping to see a Sachin Tendulkar double-century, and a strong riposte from the home side. But Tendulkar fell for 153 halfway through the morning, and Australia’s opening batsmen got only 21 overs to show off their wares.
One setback India may face on day three is not having RP Singh in their attack as Australia chase their first-innings 526. RP hobbled off the field clutching his hamstring after bowling four overs. He was examined at a local hospital and is unlikely to bowl on Saturday.
The story of the day however was India’s spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. They didn’t break through with the ball, but a 107-run partnership with the bat helped push India past the 523 they made in their last Test here. Kumble fell 13 short of what would have been his second century, but by then Australia had been kept in the field more than five sessions.
Kumble finished with 87 that spanned 205 balls and more than four hours, while Harbhajan rattled off 63. Both men were caught by Adam Gilchrist, who went past Mark Boucher on the all-time dismissals list, finishing the innings with 414. The celebrations were muted though, with the last man, Ishant Sharma, having helped Kumble to thwart Australia for 123 balls and 58 runs.
Once again, Australia were sloppy in the field. Kumble had just seven when Phil Jaques put down a chance off Brett Lee at short leg. That it was the ball after Tendulkar’s dismissal made it even more pivotal. There were just 359 on the board then, and the mistakes only mounted as the day wore on.
Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey dropped tough chances, while Michael Clarke fluffed a simple return catch offered by Ishant as Australia began to look increasingly ragged. They found redemption only at the end of the day, with some booming drives from Matthew Hayden and some dogged batting from Jaques knocking 62 off the deficit.
India’s day had started perfectly, with Tendulkar flicking Lee’s first ball for four. And though he was almost run out by Clarke soon after, the positive approach was very evident as 18 came from the first two overs. The overnight partnership was worth 54 when MS Dhoni gave it away with a poor shot. Having slashed Lee for four just minutes earlier, he attempted a repeat against Johnson, only to scoop it straight to Andrew Symonds at deep point.
That setback didn’t faze Tendulkar though. Lee was bowling at ferocious pace, and there was the odd awkward fend, but there was also a cut that sped off the bat and past the man at point. A peachy cover-drive took him past 150, but when he inside-edged a pull on to his knee off the next ball, there was a lengthy delay.
After being treated by the physio, Tendulkar resumed guard, but the focus had been disrupted. Lee summoned up another short ball, and this time the miscued hook was taken by Brad Hogg running in from backward square. Tendulkar’s innings had spanned 205 balls, and his exit might have been expected to dent hopes of a huge total.
Instead, Kumble played some superb drives off Stuart Clark, while Harbhajan clouted Johnson over mid-on as India added 96 in the first session. Harbhajan did survive two very good shouts from Hogg, but was otherwise the dominant partner in an association that drove Australia to the end of their tether.
The pressure valve was really opened when the spinners came on. Symonds bowled his first over of the match 40 minutes after lunch, and with Hogg on at the Cathedral End, the runs came steadily. Harbhajan smashed Symonds past mid-off to bring up his 50 from 87 balls, and then thumped his chest in celebration.
Kumble joined in, biffing Hogg down the ground for four, and reached his own 50 (135 balls) with a drive down the ground off Symonds. It was his first half-century against Australia, and even when Harbhajan departed for 63 (103 balls), miscuing Symonds for Gilchrist to take a catch running towards square leg, the misery didn’t end.
RP chipped Clarke to midwicket to be out for nought, but there was still plenty of time for Kumble and Ishant to add formic acid to the wound. Kumble stroked a lovely cover-drive as 500 came into view, and four leg byes got them there. Australia finally broke through 11 balls after tea, giving Johnson his fourth wicket of the innings. And despite Hayden’s statement of intent, it was once again India’s day, with Australia made to struggle like so many of the sides that they’ve taken toll of down the years.
Source:Cricket NewsMore on:Anil Kumble, Australia, Harbhajan Singh, India, India in Australia 2007, Ricky Ponting, RP Singh, Sachin Tendulkar
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