Sehwag and Hayden trade verbal blows
A day of attrition was followed by a round of verbal volleys with both camps criticising the other for not pushing for victory. While Virender Sehwag criticised Australia for their defensive approach Matthew Hayden felt India's bowlers had been too negative with their lines. Sehwag said Australia were "scared of defeat" but Hayden countered that by referring to "India's wide tactics".
"They're not going to win, they're scared," Sehwag said on a day when Australia managed 260 runs for the loss of three wickets. "They are playing so defensively. They just got 260 in a day on a flat track; that's not like Australia. Last time they scored more than 400 in a day at Adelaide. I think they're scared of defeat."
Were India surprised by Australia's approach? "Yes, it was a surprise," he said without hesitation. "There is something wrong in their batting line-up or thinking. It didn't matter whether we set a field for attacking or defensive cricket, they were not playing too many shots. It was very frustrating with the wicket being so flat. We were waiting for the bad shot."
Despite Ricky Ponting rediscovering some sort of form during his half-century, Sehwag felt he wasn't playing his natural game. "He has not got runs against India in the last three games. And every batsman faces that. Even I was trying to play like that [when out of form]. This is not his natural game. Maybe because he has not got runs in the last three games. I don't know what is in his mind."
A few minutes later, Hayden, who picked up his third hundred of the series and in his 94th Test became the quickest to 30 centuries, responded with blunt thoughts. "I think it's in response to the way India has decided to bowl," he said after becoming the sixth batsman to reach the 30-century mark. "Unless I took guard four stumps outside off there was no chance I was going to get to the ball. It was wide bowling and we didn't feel threatened by the way they bowled.
"They wanted us to be attacking. It was indicated by the way they didn't take the new ball. It was perfect for us to bat time in the game. The way they've bowled has been perfect for us not to lose. If it's wide outside off, we don't have to play. Australia are 2-1 up in the series and that's the way we definitely want it to stay. There were very few times India challenged the stumps, till I got out. It was a perfect way to occupy the crease."
Strong through point, and powerful straight - a straight six off Kumble was the highlight - Hayden directed the opening stand of 159 with Phil Jaques that saved Australia any fears about falling well short of India's 526.
He also attributed the slow scoring to a abrasive pitch, one that removed the hardness from the ball too soon. "The ball got very, very soft," he said, "and it made it hard to score. The wicket was hard and abrasive. The ball is new now but won't be in 15 overs. It generally holds up in Australia but this wicket is so baked the ball gets soft."
Predictably both had contrasting thoughts on the state of the match. "The wicket is still good for batting," said Sehwag, "and hopefully when we come here tomorrow, some cracks will open up."
The first session, according to Hayden, would decide the course of the game. "I don't reckon we're going to declare behind. We have to look to play out the first hour, or even the first session. If we do play well in that period, things will get better as the day goes on. We need to inch to India's first-innings total. And we will be eking out time too."
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo