India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 3rd day October 3, 2010

Intriguing day of Test cricket ahead

India scored only 23 runs fewer than Australia, taking 43 fewer overs, a scoring rate which has kept the match alive

The backs of the rock-solid chairs at the PCA Stadium don't move back or forward, else that movement could have been heard when Sachin Tendulkar moved too far across to Marcus North and was out lbw for 98. Tendulkar had played beautifully until then, and the century had seemed inevitable.

There were three other knocks in the Indian innings that met a similar fate. Virender Sehwag got a short ball that stopped a touch, Rahul Dravid got a good ball from Doug Bollinger, and Suresh Raina - who looked unstable in the second half of his innings - played around a skidding delivery from Mitchell Johnson. Neither of them was as good or as big an innings as Tendulkar's, but all three had centuries on offer after having blunted the attack. Had even one of the four men gone on to score a big hundred, India would have batted Australia out of the game.

Still, thanks to the pace at which India scored, and thanks to an Australian attack that isn't quite threatening to take 10 wickets in a day, the late collapse during which India lost five wickets for 24 should not hurt the home side too much. While theoretically all three results are still open, an Indian defeat is only a slim possibility. The only way India can lose now is for Australia to get bowled cheaply, and India to do even worse.

Australia, for sure, won't be too keen to declare too soon, thus giving India most of the final day to survive. The presence of Sehwag in the Indian line-up takes care of such declarations, especially after what he did against England in Chennai in 2008-09. Also, Australia will not be encouraged by how their bowlers hardly created any pressure on India for three sessions.

It was possibly this knowledge that prompted India to go for quick runs. They must have felt that they were the side that needed to push for a win. Dravid later said that the pace at which India went had kept the game alive. It was a remarkable approach, too, since they knew VVS Laxman was out for at least the day with back spasms.

India scored only 23 runs fewer than Australia, taking 43 fewer overs. It was clear from the in-and-out field set early in the day that Australia were not going to force the pace. They had the runs on the board, and asked India to risk losing wickets going for the quick runs needed for a win. It was a smart approach, and needed high-quality batting to be countered. India took the challenge, and Dravid, Tendulkar and Raina all seized the initiative.

Dravid said, though, that India would have loved to totally eliminate the possibility of losing, and force Australia to save the game over four sessions or so. "We had the advantage, and we looked like we were going really well when Sachin and Raina were batting," he said. "But we lost wickets in a heap. At the same time I wouldn't say we are behind now. We are on an even keel at this stage. You also got to give credit to the bowlers. [Mitchell] Johnson bowled really well towards the end."

In a strange way, though, this collapse might have given India a slight advantage. Had things gone to plan, India would have tried to bat until the third session of day four, getting a lead of close to 250 and asking Australia to save the game. That would have given Australia a clear approach. Now, they will have to weigh up whether to go for safety first or whether to attack, as a team with a slender lead and with the advantage of bowling last would usually do.

As it often happens in Tests where both the teams complete their innings quite close to each other by the end of the third day, the third innings of the match will be crucial here. In their first effort, Australia managed to defend well against spin, with a clear mindset on a fresh pitch. On day four, though, the pitch will be worn out, and there will be options running in the head. If Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan - who "bowled 50 overs on one leg" in the first innings - are at their best, the fourth day will make for some Test cricket.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mahesh on October 4, 2010, 12:52 GMT

    Only 2 results are possible now. A draw is ruled out. I bet on Aus to win because Ind has only Dhoni as the last specialized batsman. As I told earlier, anything beyond 175 as last innings target is difficult. My prediction is Ind will be bowled out for 150 between lunch and tea tomorrow. But my heart goes for another match winning innings by Sachin supported by Dhoni, Zaheer and Bhajji. In any case Aus has proved that their 2nd string bowling is capable of getting the over hyped Indian batting. Aus should be glad that they got bowled out for less than 200. If they had wickets in hand, they would have played for about an hour tomorrow morning and thought of declaration. India then would have an option to save the game if they lose wickets during the chase. A result is now inevitable and I am glad about that rather than a tame draw!!!

  • Andrew on October 4, 2010, 12:22 GMT

    What a final session! I think Oz should restrict India to 1 run an over an wait for them to collapse in the last session - LOL! I wonder what excuses Indian fans will give when/if they lose tomorrow. Now for my grievances - 1. Oz attack unlikely to take 10 wickets in a day? - They were on target to take 10 in a session. 2. Oz negative tactics? what about the fact that India was 10 overs behind by Tea? Only bowled 23 overs by Lunch - 14 by spinners! That is negative my friends. India still can win this as long as SRT is still at the crease. If wickets fall @ the other end I wonder if SRT will go after the attack or be patient? What a final day - again as I said b4 the start of the day ALL 3 reults are on the table, (what odds on a tie???)

  • Sibhi on October 4, 2010, 8:06 GMT

    @cricket_fan_1980 : yea really Hope So.....Imagine Raina And Umar Akmal Playing together, Afridi and Dhoni Thrashing, Sachin n Yusuf Anchoring , Importantly Zaheer and Gul Reversing...with Ameer n Ishant Streaming its a match winning Combo.... But whatever We will be still the Worst Fielding side lol.....

  • Nish on October 4, 2010, 7:27 GMT

    JB77 - Maybe India rightly refused to accept this umpiring referral system in this series knowing the T.V. umpires in both matches would probably be someone as inept as this clown Mr Hazare! :))) Anyways, wot is the referral system got to do with the state of the pitches??? Whatsmore, doesn't every country prepare their pitches to suit their own bowlers! As for 'flat track bullies', haven't all the Indian batsman thrived on pacy overseas pitches too in recent years - which is precisely why they are the current No. 1 Test team! DiggersRus - If Ishant Sharma is the most ridiculous bowler at present, God only knows how he's already destroyed the Aussie top order in the second innings, taken three wickets as I write this & unlucky not to get perhaps a couple more!!!

  • Dummy4 on October 4, 2010, 3:23 GMT

    @ whippersnapper. Well said, nothing said will affect the result of two even teams. Well done to Tendulkar, Watson, Paine, Raina and Johnson. Watching the battle is the thrill. Go Aus.

  • moody89 on October 4, 2010, 3:18 GMT

    I don't know why a result is not possible. Harbajhan and Sehwag will enjoy bowling on this wicket tomorrow. There was some spin on offer, and also bounce for Harbajhan... and he is a much better bowler when bounce is available. Ishant really needs to step up, he has dwindled. Yet another Indian quickie fades after one good season. Absolutely ridiculous, what are they doing in chennai at the pace foundation?

  • Michael on October 4, 2010, 3:12 GMT

    gotta love test cricket. 3 results still very much on the cards. whippersnapper has it spot on, as does marcio. any chance out of a billion people they could get more than 5000 through the gates? or are they all chipping in to build foot bridges for the commonwealth games? oh and all this bucknor talk is silly really, take the good with the bad, damien martyn got some rough decisions in england, strauss last time in oz, yet we move on to the next ball because what has happened does not effect what is happening.

  • Dummy4 on October 4, 2010, 3:00 GMT

    I think Sidarth is right on the money here. I cannot see Australia winning the test match as they will not make a sporting declaration and dangle a 'carrot' for India to chase.Having said that, pressure does funny things to people so all 3 outcomes are still possible. People may see this as negative cricket, but I see it as intelligent and mature cricket from Australia. Whilst I love the fact we are seeing test matches rather than poxy ODI's, I think Indian cricket's decision to play this series instead of the original ODI series is more about beating Australia while they are down and strengthening India's no.1 ranking before the tough SA tour ahead. Therefore it is up to them to try to force a result much like Australia has had to do for many years in Australia.

  • N on October 4, 2010, 2:58 GMT

    :Sweetspot - lack of menace hey? Ishant Sharma is the most ridiculous bowler in international cricket. It has been a long while since we've seen such woeful bowling in a test match. The only people he's be scaring are the little kiddies on Halloween.

  • N on October 4, 2010, 2:52 GMT

    It is been a long time since I have read such a biased load of crap article on this website.

    Australia is ahead in the game, as shown by their higher first innings score. Their slower scoring rate shows a responsibility and an understanding of TEST MATCH cricket. While the fast scoring rate and fickle batting of India highlights their over-reliance on 'hit and giggle' T20 cricket. Shown up by some excellent Australian bowling yesterday, I reckon the game rests firmly in the hands of the Aussie batsmen. Sehwag controls the game - give me a break. On a crumbing 5th day wicket he will be inconsequential.

  • No featured comments at the moment.