Saturday, November 8, 2008

India-Australia Nagpur Test Match 2.0

India eked out a vital 86-run first innings lead to gain a slight upper hand in the fourth and final cricket Test against an unsually subdued Australia who scored at an agonisingly slow pace in Nagpur on Saturday.

Responding to India's first innings total of 441, the Australians squandered the advantange of a solid start to lose wickets at periodic intervals after the lunch break and fold up for 355 just a few minutes before stumps on an absorbing third day.

Opener Simon Katich (102) scored his third century since returning to the national team and his fifth overall to lay the foundation for his team alongwith Michael Hussey (90) but their dismissals in quick succession opened up the floodgates.

The visitors, who were placed at a comfortable 255 for three at one stage, slipped to a precarious 266 for six before recovering to some extent mainly due to the efforts of Brad Haddin (28) and Cameron White (46).

India were yet to open their account in the second innings with Virender Sehwag safely negotiating Mitchell Johnson's only over before close of play.

The Aussies were inexplicably defensive in their approach and allowed the hosts to create pressure by drying up the run flow on a track which has shown gradual signs of deterioration.

The tourists could add just 166 runs to their overnight tally, an uncharacteristically slow run rate of less than 2.5 runs from the champion team which is desperate to win the Test and level the series 1-1.

With two days left, the Indians will now look to score quickly in the second innings and have another crack at the Aussies on a last day pitch which was expected to turn a lot more.

Resuming at 189 for two, Australia made slow and steady progress against the pace duo of Zaheer and Ishant Sharma before losing Katich for 102 with half an hour left for lunch.

Katich faced 189 balls and struck nine boundaries. The left-hander added 155 runs with fellow-Western Australian Michael Hussey for the third wicket.

Zaheer, who bowled a long spell of nine overs for 15 runs from the end opposite to the pavilion, switched ends and struck in the second over by trapping Katich leg before with a ball that swung in late and hit the batsman's boot.

India should have sent back Katich soon after play began but Dravid at first slip grassed the thick edge despite getting both hands to the ball flying to his left. The batsman was on 94 and became the fourth Australian player to make a century on this tour.

The first hour of play produced just 25 runs in 13 overs with both Katich and Hussey waiting for the bad ball to score runs.

It was Katich's fourth century outside his home country and first since hitting two in the West Indies in May-June that had revived his stuttering career.

Katich, thus, made amends for getting out on 99 at this Orange city, but in the old VCA ground, four years ago.

It was also his second ton against India after his 125 at Sydney in 2004, his maiden hundred.

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