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The Wisden Bulletin by Anand Vasu
December 8, 2003
Australia 323 and 284 for 3 dec (Hayden 99) drew with India 409 (Ganguly 144, Gillespie 4-66, MacGill 4-86) and 73 for 2 (Dravid 43*)
Matthew Hayden pummelled the Indian attack - a sign of things to come?
© Getty Images
Steve Waugh provided an already exciting Test with one final twist by declaring late on the final day, just when no-one expected it. Australia set India an improbable victory target of 199 from 23 overs, on the back of a savage 99 from Matthew Hayden. India then lost both openers cheaply before Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman took them to a respectable 73 for 2 from 16 overs, at which point play was called off, and the Test drawn. Amazingly, even with almost ten hours lost, this Test kept spectators interested till the very end.
When Akash Chopra and Virender Sehwag walked out to bat, chasing over 8.5 runs an over, they had little to gain and almost everything to lose. They could either shut up shop and help themselves to some time out in the middle, or go for quick runs and risk being dismissed cheaply. What the openers decided to do, we may never know, but the results were there for all to see. Sehwag (0) tried to flick the first ball he faced, from Nathan Bracken, closed the face of his bat too early, and could only get a leading edge to Damien Martyn at midwicket (4 for 1). Chopra (4) poked at the very next ball, and presented Justin Langer with a catch in the slips.
In an instant, the match came alive, and Bracken was on a hat-trick on his Test debut. VVS Laxman came out to the middle. Sachin Tendulkar, who was off the field for 48 minutes of the Australian innings, could not bat till that much time had elapsed, or five wickets had fallen. Laxman squirted the first ball he played through gully to avoid the hat-trick.
From then on, there were no scares for India. Dravid dominated Stuart MacGill to pick up an unbeaten 43 from 47 balls, while Laxman (24 not out) was his charming self, as India reached 73 for 2 from 16 overs, and the match was drawn.
Stuart MacGill: cleaned up the Indian tail
© Getty Images
But apart from the last session, and Hayden's savage assault, the day did not hold as much interest as the scorecard might suggest. On the fourth day, India's tail had wagged with all the enthusiasm of a terrier's when in pursuit of a fox, but it subsided limply on the morning of the final day. India lost two wickets without adding to their overnight score of 362 for 6. Ajit Agarkar (12) slashed one to the slips, and Parthiv Patel's top-edged hook was well taken by a diving Andy Bichel at fine leg and he was on his way for 37.
Zaheer Khan then merrily drove three boundaries, and lofted one glorious straight six in his 27, while Harbhajan Singh swatted the ball in inimitable fashion as India pushed along to 409. Zaheer took some effort to convert a MacGill delivery into a yorker, and was bowled (403 for 9). Ashish Nehra then confirmed his No. 11 position by padding up to a fuller one from MacGill. While Nehra might have looked quizzically back at Steve Bucknor when the finger went up to confirm the lbw, it is unlikely to inspire any of the outrage another similar incident did.
India had taken a first-innings lead of 86, which in itself was an achievement for a team written off by many even before the series began. And when Langer edged Agarkar to Patel before he'd scored, the Indians were cock-a-hoop. Australia were 6 for 1 and suddenly Test cricket Down Under did not seem such a tough ask after all.
Steve Waugh: declared with his 33rd Test hundred a realistic proposition
© Getty Images
Hayden then brought the Indians crashing back to earth with an array of heavy strokes that would have done a wood-chopper proud. He stood on the crease, transferred his weight from back to front foot, and simply bludgeoned the ball in all directions. The straight hits were particularly savage, and left the bowlers spinning in their followthroughs to track the flight of the ball back towards the fence. And he did this with gay abandon even as Ricky Ponting made as less-than-inspiring 50 and departed. He continued to biff the ball as the hundred approached, and moved from 93 to 99 with a big six.
His confidence high - perhaps too high - on a wave of form that has made him the first man to score 1000 runs in a calendar year three times in succession, Hayden holed out. He swatted Harbhajan straight down Sehwag's throat at the midwicket fence. Hayden's 98-ball 99 had put India on the back foot.
With the field well spread out, and Zaheer Khan back in the pavilion nursing a hamstring niggle, Waugh (56 not out) and Martyn (66 not out) kept the scoreboard ticking over at a steady pace. A brace of sweetly timed straight sixes from Martyn signalled that a declaration was imminent. It came with 23 overs left in the day, with the lead 199, but it did not change the end result.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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