Australia v India, 4th Test, Sydney, 3rd day January 4, 2004

Australia in trouble at the SCG

The Wisden Bulletin
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Close Australia 342 for 6 (Langer 117, Hayden 67; Kumble 4-103) trail India 705 for 7 dec (Tendulkar 241*, Laxman 178) by 363 runs
Scorecard



Justin Langer's century was the only real positive for Australia on the day
© Getty Images


Think of a man with these following qualities: grit, the will to win, mental strength, and tons of experience. This might have been Steve Waugh's last Test, but the third day at the SCG was dominated by a man with a near-identical mental make-up - Anil Kumble. Australia had motored to 147 for no loss, in response to India's 705 for 7 declared, when Kumble struck. Bowling with intelligence and discipline, varying his pace and his turn, Kumble scythed through Australia's top order, taking 4 for 103 as they finished the day on 342 for 6. It would have been a respectable score in any other context, but chasing 705, with two days still left, it was inadequate. Irfan Pathan, with the late wickets of Waugh and Adam Gilchrist, and Justin Langer, with a manic century, had their moments - but it was Kumble's day.

Halfway through the day, a run-fest seemed on the cards, and the match appeared destined to be drawn. Langer and Matthew Hayden had counterattacked the Indian bowlers from the start, and were cruising along at five an over. Ajit Agarkar and Pathan had been ineffectual with the new ball, and Murali Kartik had been mauled out of the attack, with Hayden smashing him for six fours in two overs just after lunch - four of them being typically powerful sweeps. Only Kumble looked likely to make a breakthrough.

Repeatedly, Kumble beat Hayden with his googlies; repeatedly, Hayden swept his legbreaks. Hayden cut him, cover-drove him and smashed him over his head, but when he wasn't hitting boundaries, he was playing uncertainly, and it was no surprise when he mishit Kumble to Sourav Ganguly at mid-off (147 for 1). Hayden was out for 67; would the tempo slow down now?

No. Langer went berserk after Hayden was out, dominating a partnership of 67 with Ponting, which came in just over 12 overs. He charged Kartik and hit him to long-on for a four and a six when he was brought back into the attack, and reached his 17th Test century with a reverse-sweep for four off Kartik's next over. He swept Kartik for another four the ball after that, and Kartik went on to finish his spell with overall figures of 0 for 62 in seven overs. Welcome back to Test cricket.

But Kumble didn't give up. His variations in pace were magnificent, and the batsmen were struggling to read his wrong `un. He eventually snared Langer, holding one back just a wee bit as Langer tried his umpteenth sweep and got a top-edge. The ball looped into no-man's land at midwicket, and Parthiv Patel sprinted as if after a school bus on the day of his final exam, and took a superb tumbling catch (214 for 2). Langer had made 117.

The Kumble masterclass continued. He set Ponting up with four legbreaks in a row around the 85 kph mark, then slipped in a straighter, flatter one which rushed through at 100 kph and caught Ponting plumb in front, stuck on the crease. Ponting was out for 25. Australia were 229 for 3.

Waugh walked in to a rapturous reception - even the Indian team lined up to applaud him. Then they got back to the job at hand, as Agarkar came back into the attack and tested Waugh with some short bowling. He was struck on the arm off one such ball, in a similar manner to which he had injured his elbow in the last Test, but he soldiered on.

Martyn played a circumspect innings of 7 off 45 balls, which came to an end when he was deceived by the lack of pace on a Kumble ball, and hit it straight back to the bowler (261 for 4). Simon Katich was ill at ease to begin with, as Kartik came back into the attack and there were spinners at both ends. But he began to use his feet well when he settled down, stepping out and driving with confidence, and rocking back and cutting anything even slightly wide and short.

Waugh had constructed a typically combative innings of 40 when the spotlight suddenly shifted a generation, to the most inexperienced player in this Test. Pathan came back into the attack, generated some late swing, and induced a prod and an edge from Waugh, which Patel held on to comfortably (311 for 5). The crowd went silent. Then, remarkably, swathes of people began to leave the ground - with Adam Gilchrist walking in to bat.

They should have stayed - to watch Pathan dismiss Gilchrist, in the penultimate over of the day, with a ball that Wasim Akram would have been proud of: a yorker that swung in viciously and hit the middle stump, with both bails going up in the air in a smooth synchronised movement. Pathan danced up a little less balletically, and with good reason - it was an unplayable delivery that would have got rid of any lefthander in the world. The tail was in, with Australia still needing 164 runs, at the close, to avoid the follow-on. The last time Australia had followed on was in 1988-89, against Pakistan. This was not the kind of nostalgia Waugh would have expected to encounter.

Earlier in the morning, as expected, India had batted on, blazing away in an effort to put on quick runs. Patel hit some crisp boundaries off Brett Lee before being out for an impressive 62, and though Agarkar was out early, Pathan played a positive innings of 13, off 14 balls.

Tendulkar, meanwhile, motored on to 241 not out, the highest score by an Indian in Tests overseas, and the second highest, after VVS Laxman's 281, in all Tests. Ganguly did not, interestingly, declare after India had reached 700, their highest Test score, but after Tendulkar had passed Sunil Gavaskar's 236 not out, which was, until the 21st century, the highest score by an Indian in Tests. It had been a mythical benchmark that Indian batsmen of Tendulkar and Ganguly's generation must have aspired to, and it was good to leave history behind, while forging a bright new future.