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The Bulletin by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan at Bangalore
October 8, 2004
Australia 474 and 127 for 4 (Katich 39) lead India 246 (Patel 46, Ganguly 45, McGrath 4-55) by 355 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India waged a grim battle in the face of a near-hopeless cause, first through their tailenders who hung on with gumption, and later through their bowlers, who prised out four Australian wickets on an absorbing third day at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. However, despite that grit, Australia were still overwhelming favourites to go one up in the series as they led by 355 runs when stumps were drawn.
It wasn't a day of pretty cricket, but it was utterly compelling nevertheless. Only 223 runs came in the day, but India fought an admirable trench war, keeping Australia at bay in the first half then holding them on the leash after they had got off to a rollicking start. Harbhajan Singh bowled beautifully, much better than his figures (1 for 43) suggest, varying his length, pitching the ball on the stumps, and keeping all the batsmen tentative.
Seen in isolation, it was India's day, but Australia had taken far too much ground in the first two for India to feel any degree of comfort. They will have to bat out of their skins for around five sessions on a wearing pitch to save this Test.
Unlike the top order, the Indian tailenders gritted it out against some testing bowling, and used up valuable time in the process. Parthiv Patel and Irfan Pathan led the defiant batting display, putting on 60 invaluable runs for the seventh wicket, as India extended their innings midway into the second session. They played out the opening spell from Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie with assurance - singles were cheered like centuries, and every ball negotiated prompted rapturous applause. Patel nudged and glided behind square, while Pathan made sure he played as straight as possible.
The short ones were left alone - Patel weaved and ducked, refusing to be lured into the hook trap - while most of the balls outside off stump were left untouched. Patel tackled Shane Warne with soft hands, and waited for the ball to come on after turning slowly off the pitch.
At the other end, Pathan showed streaks of aggression against Warne, dancing down the track and hoisting him for two fours. He fell to Warne immediately after the second of those lofted drives, given out for 31 to a dubious caught-behind decision as the ball deflected off the pad and sneaked through to Adam Gilchrist (196 for 7).
Patel continued his obdurate ways as Anil Kumble, promoted ahead of Harbhajan, kept him company. Kumble, who was the first to walk out for a net session after India's miserable batting display yesterday evening, battled bravely in the face of a menacing spell from Michael Kasprowicz after lunch. He was rapped on the pads on a number of occasions before missing one that came in late and squirted away for four byes.
However, the new ball put an end to the tailend resistance: Gillespie gated Patel for a dogged 46, with one that came in late and uprooted middle stump (227 for 8). Kumble fell soon afterwards and India finished with 246, nursing a slim hope of saving the game.
That hope was slightly enhanced with the fourth ball of the Australian innings, as Pathan trapped Justin Langer in front with one that cut back in late. Replays showed that the ball might have gone marginally over the stumps. Simon Katich began with a flurry of fours, including an almost-perfect back-foot straight-drive off Pathan, and, with Matthew Hayden driving powerfully at the other end, the runs came in a rush.
Harbhajan helped India stem the flow with a splendid piece of fielding at point. He charged towards the ball once Katich had pushed it to his right, picked up and threw down the stumps to leave Hayden (30) inches short of the crease (65 for 2). That proved to be a crucial point in the day, as Australia managed just 62 more in the last 26 overs, while losing two more wickets to the slow bowlers.
India's game-plan tomorrow will be similar to the final hour today, as they will want to delay Gilchrist's declaration as long as possible. It could well turn out to be another absorbing day.
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