Matthew Hayden's belligerent 147 puts Australia in command
Australia bounced back with a bang after their morale shattering defeat in Kolkata, to take the honours on the first day of the third and final Test match against hosts India at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai on Sunday. The toast of the day was Matthew Hayden who bludgeoned the Indian bowling to make an unbeaten 147, batting all through the day to put Australia in a commanding position at 326/3.
Australian captain Steve Waugh remained unbeaten on 43 at close of play. He surpassed the aggregate of Graham Gooch (8,900) when on 30 and now has an aggregate of 8,914 runs, the third highest in Test match cricket behind the legends Allan Border (11,174) and Sunil Gavaskar (10,122). Steve Waugh's twin brother Mark Waugh too passed a personal milestone; he got to his 7000th Test run when on 46.
India made three changes to their side, wicket keeper Sameer Dighe and leg spinner Sairaj Bahutule making their debut and Nilesh Kulkarni the slow left arm spinner making a comeback into the side. Nayan Mongia the regular wicket keeper had to sit out because of an injury. Australia gave Colin Miller a chance to play, replacing Michael Kasprowicz.
Earlier in the day Steve Waugh won a crucial toss and did not hesitate to bat first. Michael Slater struck a four but it was all he could score before being caught by VVS Laxman off the third ball of the first over bowled by Zaheer Khan.
Harbhajan Singh who spun the Aussies to a devastating defeat in Kolkata was brought on to bowl in the sixth over of the day. The Aussies clearly had a game plan, to upset the rhythm of the bowler. Hayden took the honourable task, stepping down the track and smashing Harbhajan for sixes and fours. Justin Langer too was not to be left behind as he lofted a ball from Harbhajan Singh over mid-wicket for a glorious six.
In the meanwhile Hayden got a reprieve when he was on 21; Sameer Dighe making his debut missed an easy opportunity to run Hayden out. It is just another story that Hayden has made the Indians pay dearly for that early miss. Langer made 35 off 35 balls before edging one from Harbhajan Singh to Rahul Dravid at first slip.
Mark Waugh who has not had the best of series coming into the Chennai Test, must have thanked his good fortune as Dighe missed an easy stumping when he had made just nine. Dighe has had a nightmare of a debut match, extending charity to the best professionals in the game today.
Mark Waugh too was in attacking mood as he stepped out to loft Kulkarni for a massive straight six. He looked to be in excellent touch and heading for a big score He laced his elegant knock with seven boundaries and a six to make 70 before mistiming a lofted on drive off Bahatule; only to watch in agony as substitute fielder Hemang Badani ran back and took a good catch at extra cover. Mark Waugh and Hayden added 150 runs in their third wicket partnership.
That was the last success of the day for the Indians. Steve Waugh too made it clear that he intended to dominate the bowling, playing his trademark heave-ho over mid-wicket for a huge six. Only the introduction of Sachin Tendulkar in the final session of the day saw the run rate slow down a little. Hayden and Steve Waugh have put together an unbroken partnership of 109 for the fourth wicket.
Matthew Lawrence Hayden who plays for the Queensland Bulls, has had a memorable tour so far, scoring a hundred in Mumbai and missing out on a hundred in Kolkata by just three runs. Today he took the opportunity to demolish the Indian attack as he smashed his way to an unbeaten 147 off 249 balls with the help of five mighty sixes and a dozen boundaries.
What has been most heartening from an Australian point of view is the temperament and technique of this big man, Hayden. All day along he kept a cool head to negotiate the turn and bounce the Indian spinners were getting off the pitch. He used his feet remarkably well to smother the spin and on occasions to play the lofted shot. But it was the sweep shot he played to such perfection that destroyed the Indian spinners, who otherwise would have created a panic amongst the Aussie batsmen.