India edge ahead in tense scrap
Australia 235 and 150 for 4 (Gilchrist 49) lead India 376 (Kaif 64, Patel 54, Warne 6-125) by 9 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
An intriguing day's play where punch was met by counter-punch and strategy was defied by grit set the second Test up perfectly going into the fourth day. Parthiv Patel and Mohammad Kaif stretched India's lead on to a healthy 141 and then Australia, with Adam Gilchrist showing the way at No. 3, scrambled to 150 for 4, with a slender lead of 9.
The Indian lead of 141 does not sound like an awful lot, but it was enough to put pressure on Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer. The two began shakily, but managed to get the ball away often enough to bring up the 50-run partnership before Langer's flash outside off fell in Rahul Dravid's lap at first slip. Langer had made 19, but it was ironic that he was the first to be dismissed, for Hayden had been the one flirting with danger. He was dropped twice by Patel behind the stumps, first when he hadn't yet opened his account, off Zaheer Khan, and later on 21, off Anil Kumble.
Eventually, though, Hayden fell on 39, but not before he had reverted to the tactic that brought him 549 runs at an uber-Bradman average of 109 on Australia's last tour here. Hayden's lusty sweeps were effective, but eventually caused his downfall on 39, when one ball climbed, took the edge and ballooned up for VVS Laxman to latch onto gingerly at mid-on (76 for 2).
Gilchrist then showed why he was in at No. 3, sweeping Kumble, Harbhajan and Virender Sehwag for powerful boundaries in quick succession. Simon Katich, looking to be more aggressive in this innings than he had earlier in the series, reached 9 before being trapped in front of the stumps by a sharp reverse-swinging delivery from Zaheer Khan (121 for 3). Gilchrist galloped along, reaching 49 swiftly, but after a sluggish phase in sight of the half-century, was bowled around the legs by a Kumble googly (145 for 4). Only two balls before that, Patel had chalked up his third dropped catch in under 47 overs, when Gilchrist gloved Kumble down the leg side.
But Patel's day was not all about misses. Earlier, with Kaif, he proved that it was possible to bat long on this Chennai pitch. Kaif, curious stance on display - feet close together, buttocks stuck out, hands spread on the bat handle - took his guard outside the crease, and used a straight bat to great effect against the medium-pacers. Patel, waiting and watching the ball till the last possible moment before choosing his stroke, ensured that he was able to take toll when the opportunity arose.
Both batsmen had just about blunted the seamers when Gilchrist turned to spin, and Patel cashed in with two quick boundaries - a pull off Katich and a heave to midwicket off Shane Warne. The partnership reached three figures and Patel had brought up his half-century.
Kaif's selection for this Test, his first in three years, proved to be an inspired decision. His 64, coming when it did, pulled India away from Australia after Virender Sehwag had laid the foundation. Kaif's half-century, his first in Test cricket, meant that the score had moved from 233 for 6 to 335 for 7. The partnership was broken when a delivery from Warne bounced a bit more than Patel expected, and he gloved it to the Gilchrist behind the stumps. In keeping with the spirit of this game Patel walked before David Shepherd could make up his mind.
Then there was a moment of confusion as Kaif dehydrated and cramped up badly. Having dashed off the field in urgent need of relief at the stroke of lunch, Kaif remained in the dressing-room, temporarily retiring hurt. Anil Kumble (20), who had batted well in the reassuring presence of Kaif, was bowled by one that drifted and turned and Harbhajan Singh popped a return catch to Warne, as he finished with 6 for 125.
Kaif (64) returned to the crease with Yuvraj Singh as a runner, but did not last too long. He came down the wicket and lifted Warne over mid-on for one glorious boundary, and ran himself out shortly after in dramatic fashion. Having reverse-swept one to the short third man region, Kaif forgot about his runner and instinctively set off down the pitch. Then he slipped and fell on the pitch clutching his leg and couldn't make it back before the bails were whipped off. By then, though, he had done his bit.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.