India v Australia, 3rd Test, Nagpur

Final walk for Lehmann?

Peter English

October 26, 2004

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Darren Lehmann gets treatment for a torn hamstring © Getty Images
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If Darren Lehmann is seeking publicity for his new book, he could not be doing a better job. The title is Darren Lehmann: Worth the Wait, but today he was wondering whether his half-century was worth the gait as he tore his right hamstring. He could be playing his last Test.

The return of Ricky Ponting is now days away and the tour's big decision - Michael Clarke or Lehmann - may have been made with a hastily taken second run. With back-to-back matches Lehmann has little time for recovery. Perhaps it is one he does not want to make.

When the praise from Clarke's first Test settled, Lehmann pulled out the incredible line that he was prepared to give him his own spot when Ponting arrived. It was definitely the view of a committed team man, yet it was also good public relations, and raised his profile. Adam Gilchrist insisted it was not a retirement decision, but a couple of former players, including the ex-Victoria wicketkeeper Darren Berry, hinted that this series would be Lehmann's last.

A sick mother, the death of his friend David Hookes and a young family are reasons why home appeals more than hotels. Lehmann also has the satisfaction of playing 23 Tests after waiting almost a decade - hence the book title - between a 12th-man appearance, and his first innings against India in March 1998.

Before the third Test of this series he had scored 67 runs, but he quickly showed his batting value, whether crabbing across the crease or driving strongly, and doubled his tally. After the pressure of the past three weeks, the hamstring tear had a comical element, and Lehmann couldn't help but chuckle between winces.

Matthew Hayden hulked out to act as a runner but Lehmann's movement was restricted and he was dropped by Sachin Tendulkar before falling to a late cut off Murali Kartik. It was a slow walk to the treatment table with a couple of head shakes. But with Damien Martyn, whose play was breathless, he had raced Australia away from a limping period during which three wickets fell for 19 runs. Using quick acceleration, the pair upped the run rate for the second session to almost five an over.

Relaxed by his match-saving century at Chennai and a Singapore mini-break, Martyn looked like the shotmaker of his youth. In Chennai his first lofted shot was the six to bring up his century. Here he went over the top before reaching fifty, as he took three boundaries from one Anil Kumble over. There would be 13 more fours and a towering six before he mis-hit one on 114.

Under this pressure India, who were desperately missing the sick Harbhajan Singh, flagged, and Lehmann and Martyn charged through 148 runs. Lehmann departed shortly before tea; Clarke symbolically replaced him, making another high-energy contribution. The future appears bright, and although this chapter is too late for the book, Lehmann's career might be worth reading about.

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Wisden Cricinfo.

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