India v Australia, 2nd Test, Chennai, 4th day October 17, 2004

Sizzling Martyn sets up a thriller

India 376 and 19 for 0 need 210 runs to beat Australia 235 and 369 (Martyn 104, Kumble 6-130)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details



Damien Martyn scored a stroke-filled hundred to take his team from a vulnerable position to one of strength © Getty Images

Allan Border recently asked in one of his columns, "when have these two teams last played out a dull, listless draw?" The complexion of the game at Chennai has changed more often, and more dramatically, than Michael Jackson's in his lengthy career. A brilliant century from Damien Martyn, under pressure, put Australia on course to a healthy lead. Then Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble had their say, and Australia were all out for 370; India were left chasing 229 for victory. They made a bright start, reaching 19 for no loss from three overs before the end of the day.

When Australia resumed on the fourth day, with a lead of nine, India were well on top. A passage of remarkable resistance, signified by an 80-run morning session, turned the tables. Those who focus merely on the elegance and beauty of Martyn's strokeplay do so at their own peril. The manner in which he tackled India's spinners, playing forward initially, then realising his folly and going right back, showed his maturity. Like all great batsmen, he forced the spinners to bowl where he wanted them to. Harbhajan was keen to exploit the rough outside the off, and Martyn sidestepped lithely outside the off to counter this.

Martyn's innings could broadly be divided into two parts. Initially, he used the four feet of depth the crease provided to great effect, and the pull was his best friend. Harbhajan and Kumble suffered, as Martyn got into excellent position to pull. And for a man brought up on the hard WACA strip, adjusting to extra bounce was never a problem.

While Martyn was easing his way towards an innings he will be remembered for, Gillespie, pushed up the order, showed the same accuracy with bat that he does with ball. A metronomic plonking of the front foot far down the pitch was coupled with a bat that stuck to the pad like a sweaty shirt would to skin on a hot, humid October day in Chennai.

Often, the Indian bowlers did not help themselves. Irfan Pathan for one was reduced to a shadow of his bustling, energetic self due to a side strain. He jogged gingerly in to the crease and could not find the reverse swing needed to put doubts in the minds of batsmen. Harbhajan's stubborn refusal to bowl round the wicket made it next to impossible for him to get an lbw decision. Kumble, without that extra zip off the pitch, was half the man who took 7 for 48 on the opening day of this Test.

As the tea break neared, you might have expected Martyn and Gillespie to tighten up. They had added plenty in the first session and put Australia well on track. But, ironically, Martyn grew more ambitious. He swept Harbhajan off consecutive balls, either side of square leg, to move from 87 to 95. Then, he audaciously came down the pitch to Kumble and sent the ball sailing silkily over the bowler's head for a big six to bring up his century.

Just when it looked like India were completely dominated on the day, Harbhajan plucked two wickets out of thin air. He gave an offbreak a good rip, and Martyn (104, 210 balls, 11 fours, 1 six) played forward, having read the turn in the air. The ball struck the rough, straightened and kissed the outside edge before Rahul Dravid wrapped his hands around it at slip. (284 for 5)

As happens so often in the subcontinent, one good wicket begat another. Gillespie (26, 165 balls) had laboured long and hard, but finally he had a nibble outside the off and Dravid pulled of a screamer at slip, diving full-length to his right (285 for 6).

But that was not quite the beginning of the end. Darren Lehmann and Michael Clarke backed themselves to play their natural game, and nearly pulled it off. Lehmann (31), for one, was game to stand well outside the leg stump and shuffle quickly across and spank the ball through the off side. When the ball was straight enough he had a wander and nurdled the ball down leg. But, it was not to last too long. He attempted a big stroke off a Kumble long-hop, and the ball lobbed off the toe of the bat for Patel to catch (347 for 7).

Michael Kasprowicz, who gallantly "walked" in the first innings, was adjudged lbw padding up to Kumble to a ball that might well have missed leg stump. Clarke, let off early on when Patel missed a leg-side stumping off Kumble, helped himself to 39 invaluable runs before Glenn McGrath was cleaned bowled by Harbhajan, leaving India with 229 for victory.

Anand Vasu is an assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.