India started Day-3 wishing to capitalise on their great overnight position. India had to consolidate and “play time”. When proceedings commenced it did look as though things would be going India’s way! Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan started with purpose and determination. Good balls were being left alone. Bad balls were being put away and singles were being taken.
Suddenly, Australia got into the game by claiming four quick wickets! Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly left without making too much of a dent on proceedings! This was suddenly starting to look like a nightmare scenario was playing out!
Meanwhile, Irfan Pathan, who had seen 4 of his senior and more illustrious partners depart, was playing a dream innings! India went to lunch on 158-5 off 33.0 overs. Irfan Pathan was on a well made 45 and V. V. S. Laxman was batting on a composed 18! India was, at this stage, just 276 ahead. A few quick wickets could mean curtains for India. Australia had, quite remarkably, clawed itself back into this game! It just goes to show that one can never underestimate this champion team. When the going gets tough, they dig deep.
Sehwag was out to a beautiful ball from Stuart Clark. Rahul Dravid had made a mess of his footwork and poked a fast and furious ball from Brett Lee straight to Adam Gilchsist’s hands. Sachin Tendulkar received a brute of a ball from Brett Lee and was plumb in front — out LBW. And Sourav Ganguly invoked his old bad habits and hung his bat out to dry outside off stump. Things were looking precarious for India.
This session clearly belonged to Australia and the SBS Score reads: Australia, 3.5 :: India, 3.5!
Things were evenly placed at this stage.
Immediately after lunch, Irfan Pathan was out. He had played a brilliant innings and held it all together while his seniors fell around him.
The lunch-to-tea session, however, saw India compile. India compiled slowly and sometimes painfully. However, India did compile and the objective seemed to be to “play time”. V. V. S. Laxman and M. S. Dhoni put away flashy and risky strokes and instead, pushed for singles. There was also the odd boundary. This was good cricket. Ricky Ponting threw down the gauntlet by bowling Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds, his spinners. Yet, the bait wasn’t taken. This was cat-and-mouse stuff that was surely compelling viewing. Dhoni, in particular, curbed his attacking strokes and played the singles and the gaps instead. Laxman was batting beautifully. This was sublime, minimal-risk second-innings batting from this batting artiste.
At Tea, India was 245 for 8. M. S. Dhoni was out caught (apparently) by Adam Gilchrist off Symonds. The lead was 363. It wasn’t quite enough. India needed about 50 runs more to be safe and perhaps even about 90 runs to completely shut Australia out!
Despite the loss of Dhoni (and Pathan earlier in the session), this was India’s session.
The SBS Score reads: Australia, 3.5 :: India, 4.5!
After Tea, India made 49 more runs. Just prior to Tea, I had said that India needed another 50 runs to be safe in this game! Well, thanks to some good batting from R. P. Singh and Laxman’s continued excellence, India got those 50 runs! These will be valuable runs in the context of the game. Australia was set 413 to win and there was an hour to play in the game in this, the 3rd day of the game.
At one stage, India looked unlikely to get to a score of 200. Thanks to some sensible batting from Sehwag (43), Pathan (46), Laxman (79), Dhoni (38) and R. P. Singh (30), India got to 294.
In response, Australia lost two wickets to Irfan Pathan’s seam bowling. The rest of the bowling was a bit ragged. However, in the last over of the day, Anil Kumble got a few to jump and spit!
Ideally, India would have liked to have taken a 3rd wicket — preferrably that of Ricky Ponting. However, the 2 wickets that they have taken is a good start. The bowlers will need to bowl with purpose, nerve and direction to complete the job.
Let us not forget that this champion Australia team is capable of winning it from here although I’d put the match currently at 65-35 in India’s favour!
It is certainly going to be an interesting 4th day. The match will not, I suspect, go to a 5th day. Australia will either win it or lose it on day-4.
What a wonderful Test match and what a superb series of cricket this has been. Full marks to this India Team for having rebounded from the depths of Sydney.
For setting a target of 413 and for taking those 2 wickets, I give this last session to India. The SBS Score reads Australia, 3.5 :: India, 5.5