Indian bowlers fight back after batsmen struggle
Australia A 311 for 5 dec and 57 for 3 (Clarke 22*, Hodge 11*) lead Indians 245 (Patel 49, Chopra 46, Tendulkar 36, Nicholson 4-25) by 123 runs
Parthiv Patel top-scored for the Indians with a sparkling 49
The second day of the three-day match wasn't one for batsmen, with the Australian bowlers restricting the Indian total to 245, and the Indians striking back with three quick wickets, as Australia A ended the evening session at 57 for 3.
Superb bowling performances by Matthew Nicholson and Shaun Tait gave Australia A a 66-run lead over the Indians, who threw away their wickets and wasted a chance to bat themselves into form, inadvertently making the game a competitive one.
It became even more so when Lakshmipathy Balaji and Irfan Pathan dismissed Chris Rogers, Michael Hussey, and Martin Love - all of whom made fifties in the first innings - in quick succession.
Tait lived up to his reputation of being a bowler with mean pace, as he regularly beat the bat, making the batsmen's stay an unenjoyable one. Though Deep Dasgupta (21) started the day with a degree of caution, he couldn't bring his bat down soon enough on an inswinger by Tait that struck him on the pads (51 for 2).
The dismissal brought Sachin Tendulkar to the wicket. Gone were the nerves of the previous Tests, as was the hesitation. There was complete authority in his strokeplay, as he cut, pulled and flicked the ball off his legs for boundaries. Damien Wright, whose first five overs cost him two runs, found his fifth going for 12, with Tendulkar dispatching the first two balls of the over to the square-leg fence, and then cover-driving the next to the fence.
Paul Rofe, who was impressive in his recent first-class matches, bowled a delivery two feet outside off stump, destined for the wicketkeeper's gloves. Tendulkar intercepted it, and with a twirl of the wrists, pulled it to midwicket. And then came the dismissal. A well-directed bouncer by Wright was hooked straight to fine leg, where Tait took a well-judged catch(104 for 3).
Akash Chopra impressed yet again with his solid defense and classical strokeplay
All along, Chopra stood firm, growing in stature and assurance, playing with a discipline the Indians lacked for a large part of the game. Boundaries were taken when offered. Otherwise, he was content to play dead-bat shots. Sehwag (30) came out and toyed with the bowling, cutting a Tait delivery over slips for four, and then lofting another to the cover boundary. But the adrenaline rush led to his dismissal, and he edged an intended back-foot punch off Tait to the keeper (139 for 4). Sourav Ganguly came in, and with him came the inevitable rising ball angled across off stump by Nicholson. On cue, Ganguly played it straight to gully (149 for 5).
The next over, Chopra (46) took off for a run off a misfield, and a brilliant off-balance throw from Michael Hussey hit the stumps, with the batsman short of the white line (150 for 6). Balaji's batting hopes lasted all of 10 balls, for Tait delivered a toe-crushing inswinger to trap him in front (162 for 7).
Patel and Murali Kartik came together and played it safe, nudging the ball around for runs. The introduction of Cameron White to the attack changed that. Bowling quick, flat legbreaks, White was cover-driven and swept for boundaries, Patel displaying a tenacity and inventiveness that was sorely absent in his more experienced colleagues. He was poised to take the Indians close to the Australia A total, when Kartik (26) was run out taking a sharp single.
Patel departed one short of a half-century in the next over, attempting a drive off Nicholson, which instead went to Martin Love at first slip (233 for 9). Soon after, Nicholson dismissed Irfan Pathan (11), picking up his fourth wicket in the process.
And just when it seemed that the second day too belonged to the Australians, a delivery by Balaji was edged by Rogers to slip (5 for 1). Hussey (7) was next to go, cutting a delivery too close to his body straight to Tendulkar at first slip, giving Pathan his second wicket of the match.
Love (11) continued his first innings form with a flowing cover-drive to open his account, but in a moment of indecision, he moved neither front, nor back, and was bowled by a straight ball from Balaji (28 for 3).