December 3, 1999

Kumble, Ramesh keep Indian hopes alive

India will go into the third day of their four-day tour match against New South Wales on Saturday with a lead of 64 runs and eight second innings wickets in hand. Despite conceding the first innings lead to the Blues, Anil Kumble and Sadagopan Ramesh have kept the tourists' hopes alive in this game.

Play began today with New South Wales 35 for one in reply to India's 185 all out on Thursday. India claimed two NSW wickets in the first hour. Corey Richards, who has gone for the bleached blond look this season, looked confident against the bowling of Srinath and Prasad, until he was struck on the hip by Srinath.

Greg Hayne acted as runner for Richards with the batsman on 48. He brought up his fifty out of 72 scored by NSW, but was obviously continuing in pain. His innings came to an end on 51 when he edged Prasad to Ganguly at second slip.

Michael Bevan lasted just five deliveries before popping the ball to Vijay Bharadwaj at short square leg for an easy catch to give Srinath his first wicket of the innings. The NSW captain made 2.

India claimed two more wickets shortly before the lunch interval. A promising 59 run partnership for the fourth wicket came to an end when Greg Mail's patient 171-minute innings came to an end on 31. Mail fell to Saurav Ganguly's second ball of the innings when Sadagopan Ramesh took a sharp catch at slip, moving high to his right to take the ball double-handed.

Shane Lee was looking increasingly aggressive and dominated the partnership, the first 50 of which was brought up in 52 minutes. After nine economical overs from Kumble, the Karnataka leg-spinner bowled two short deliveries to Lee which went to mid-wicket for four and six. Lee lost his wicket on the last ball before lunch, hooking a Prasad bouncer which was taken by Srinath a deep fine-leg. NSW went to lunch on 135 for five.

The Blues got a first innings lead of 46 after being dismissed for 231. They lost their last five wickets in an entertaining 90 minutes after lunch in which 96 runs were scored. Anil Kumble took four of the last five wickets to fall to claim the figures of 4/50.

The star of the NSW innings was wicketkeeper Brad Haddin. Playing his first season of first-class cricket following two seasons with the Canberra Comets in the Mercantile Mutual Cup one-dayers (in which he had a top score of 133), Haddin entertained the small but vocal crowd with a sparkling innings of 60 from 62 deliveries.

Haddin was especially brutal on the bowling of Kumble, at one point pulling the ball well over the mid-wicket fence for six. Eventually, he went for one big hit too many off Kumble and was bowled. Kumble's four wickets came in two batches of two wickets in three balls.

Michael Clarke (19) looked promising on his first-class debut until Kumble got a ball through his defences to take the off stump. Gavin Robertson was gone two balls later without scoring, edging a shorter ball to Laxman at second slip.

With Brett Lee falling without scoring in the first over of Ganguly's second spell, Haddin was the ninth wicket of the NSW innings to fall, with Don Nash becoming the fourth duck of the innings on an lbw decision.

Stuart MacGill, on 6, was bowled neck and crop on his second ball of the innings but Ganguly had over-stepped the line. His attempts to emulate the flamboyant batting over his partner Haddin were rather less scientific.

Prasad took 2/44 and Ganguly 2/26, with Agarkar 1/30, while Srinath (1/62 from 17 overs) also took some flak from Haddin before being replaced. Neither Bharadwaj or Kanitkar were given a bowl.

Tea was taken half an hour early at the conclusion of the NSW innings and India were left to face 42 overs in their second innings before stumps.

Ramesh and Gandhi proceeded slowly through the early part of the innings, though still able to punish the occasional loose delivery. Ramesh was the dominant figure with Gandhi looking somewhat less at ease. One pull shot from MacGill by Gandhi dragged without any movement of the feet from well outside off to the long-on boundary looking frightfully unlike the technique expected of a Test opening batsman. That shot brought up the fifty partnership in 24 overs, Ramesh contributing 34.

At 22, Gandhi gave a difficult chance to Michael Bevan at mid-off. The NSW captain lept backwards to get one hand to the ball but was unable to hold, MacGill the unlucky bowler.

Greg Mail got not one, but two, consecutive overs this time for no success, before being replaced at the northern end by the much pacier Brett Lee for his second spell. Lee had immediate success - twice in fact in his first over of the spell. With the score on 89 he beat Gandhi for pace as the opener tried to defend, the off stump coming out of the ground. Gandhi had provided 28 runs towards the first-wicket effort. Two balls later, VVS Laxman, who has been the form batsman of the tour thus far, left a ball alone outside off stump - except that it was not outside off stump at all, rather dead on target! Laxman was bowled for a second ball duck.

Ramesh (70*) and Kanitkar (9*) played out the remaining eight overs of the day and India went to stumps on 110 for two with two days to play.