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

Tenacious Australia level game

ESPNcricinfo staff
Cricketers in baggy green reputedly "don't give you an inch", and late on the third afternoon, they proved that with a rousing comeback

This is no vintage Australian side, certainly not one you'd compare favourably to that which won in India in 2004. The character of the team hasn't changed though. On the eve of the series, VVS Laxman - who's enjoyed plenty of success against Australia, both individual and collective - had said that cricketers in baggy green "don't give you an inch", and late on the third afternoon, they proved him right with a rousing comeback.

At 354 for 4, with Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina seemingly on course for centuries, India would have envisaged batting till tea on the fourth day and then applying the squeeze. Instead, they lost six for 51 in 12.4 overs, yielding Australia a 23-run advantage. Till the final hour, Australia's day of toil had only realised the wickets of Rahul Dravid and Ishant Sharma, the nightwatchman.

It wasn't for lack of effort. Starting with a beautiful outswinger from Ben Hilfenhaus that induced an edge past the slips from Dravid, Australia created several chances. But with edges falling short, a stumping missed by Tim Paine and catches going down, it was a day of frustration until Tendulkar came down the pitch to play Marcus North against the line and missed the ball.

"As a bowling unit, we stuck to our task the whole day," said Mitchell Johnson, whose 5 for 64 was the eye-catching performance of the day. "Dougie [Bollinger] bowled pretty well. [Nathan] Hauritz was out of luck. Else, he would have got a few more wickets."

Hauritz's first 21 overs went for 80, and there was never any possibility of him tying up one end as Pragyan Ojha had on the opening day. But while he didn't turn the ball dramatically, there was lovely drift that induced more than one miscue from Raina in particular. "It was just that in the last hour, things came together for us," said Johnson. "After tea, we just stuck to our plans and remained positive."

Back in 2008, Australia struggled to match India in the reverse-swing stakes. There was much greater parity today though, with Bollinger and Johnson making excellent use of the old ball. Bollinger made the crucial incision, dismissing Dravid, and Johnson then shut down the tail with deliveries that slanted across.

"We did talk about reverse swing in our team meetings and how the Indian players counter it," said Johnson. "We kept the ball really well, and it worked for us."

For Johnson, whose 14 wickets on the previous tour came at quite a cost, this was an especially important day, after the 47-run cameo with the bat. He isn't unduly bothered about whether he's classed as an allrounder or not, but he was conscious of the fact that he had talked himself up in the pre-series build-up.

Before flying to India, Johnson had talked to Glenn McGrath. McGrath thought nothing of putting pressure on himself by targetting the opposition's most important batsmen. In true Pigeon fashion, Johnson targetted Virender Sehwag, speaking of how Australia would attack him with the short ball. After Sehwag breezed to a 38-ball 50, it was indeed a short-pitched delivery from Johnson that got him, looping one to cover off the leading edge.

What Johnson and his mates have done is open up the possibility of all three results. India's spinners are likely to get much more encouragement from the pitch tomorrow than they did in the first innings, and Johnson admitted that there was still much to be done if Australia are to reverse the result of the last tour.

"We would have to bat the whole day tomorrow and hope the wicket breaks up completely when we come to bowl," he said. "It is going to be difficult to bat on this wicket. But we have some quality batsmen in our side and hopefully, they won't let the Indian spinners settle down."

Australia will take much encouragement from the Johnson-inspired late show on the third day, but the match remains in the balance. Back in 2006, a combination of reverse swing [Munaf Patel] and spin [Anil Kumble] decimated England after the two sides had finished pretty much level on first innings. But with Harbhajan Singh limping and Ishant Sharma so listless, Australia will be quietly confident that they can avoid such a fate.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on October 4, 2010, 12:25 GMT

    @Michael Dickson - no worries mate.

  • Dummy4 on October 4, 2010, 7:32 GMT

    @Meety, I don't mean to bag Hauritz, he isn't a bad bowler by any means, it's just I am indifferent to him right now. Swann has impressed me because he has taken wickets with really good deliveries, none more so than the way he got Clarke in the Ashes last year, I thought that was superb. I actually liked the honesty Hauritz showed last year when he admitted Australia would have done the same thing in the situation where the 12th man brought out extra gloves to Anderson or whoever it was. As a Kiwi, who is admittedly blinded by the mutual bias some of us share with the Aussies from time to time, that moment from Hauritz allowed me to finally start appreciating the Australian players. As far as who I'd like to see in the next test though, I'd have loved to have seen Siddle play. I reckon as far as Australian bowlers go, regardless of stats, he's awesome. Complete workhorse, just goes and goes and goes. Sid Vicious is a very fitting nickname.

  • Alok on October 4, 2010, 3:27 GMT

    India was hurt by the absence of VVS Laxman in middle order...also Dhoni should have looked to bat till stumps with Raina ,so that Laxman can take rest & Bat next day but he made a mess of it.Now After India dominating majorly on Day 3,the match is even but i don't think that Aussies will declare with a lead of 350

  • Jon on October 4, 2010, 2:23 GMT

    Indian readers are unbelievable on this blog. I've never seen so many whingers complaining about every little thing that their team didnt do 100% perfect. Heres the reason why: NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Aussies didnt allow them to dominate late in the day. I can't imagine what its going to be like when you lose all your granpas from that batting line up in the next 12 months.

  • Yog on October 4, 2010, 2:03 GMT

    Bajji was effective because Kumble used to put pressure from the other end. so without Kumle ot the other end Bajji is ineffective. I think Dhoni loves Ishant because failure after failure he is in the team which has no logic. Very rarely Aus have let down so many chances and still got the lead - can't imagine what would have happened if they had take all the chances which I am sure they will not repeat in the 4th innings. They need to get 250 plus and then India will put pressure on themselves and loose the match.

  • andrews on October 4, 2010, 2:00 GMT

    Swann has picked up a stack of wickets in the last year, no doubt about it, but mainly against weak opposition. Correspondents might need to be reminded that Hauritz was twice the bowler Swann was in the three Tests they played head-to-head in the Ashes last year in Swann's home conditions. Expect them both to play vital roles in the coming months, with Hauritz having the advantage of going forward in a vastly superior side. (Those who scoff at that would be the same who scoffed four years ago. Watch and learn this time).

  • Tim on October 4, 2010, 1:54 GMT

    Raina used up a lot of luck yesterday. He will never get away with another stumping chance like the one he offered Paine and a couple of cross-batted slogs were top edged just short of fielders. When luck deserts him, they will be swallowed. Nevertheless he showed good intent and hits well through the offside. It will be interesting to see how he plays when the balls bounces higher than the stumps.

  • Mahesh on October 4, 2010, 1:40 GMT

    Swann is good but not great. I saw his bowling in the last few months and extracts huge turn in England pitches. I am waiting for him to play test against India and SL. That will be a true reflection of his quality. In my opinion he is currently the best emerging test spinner with high rate of success (i believe in data). Hauritz is pretty young and will learn over few years. I saw him flighting the ball well and slowing the pace; both of them good qualities for a spinner.What he lacks is variety. I also felt that Ponting did not provide him with ample support in this test. For a bowler like him I would have a forward short leg, silly point, slip and a leg slip. Especially with 425+ on board, Ponting could have given him aggressive fielding.

  • Ashwin on October 4, 2010, 1:32 GMT


  • Harvey on October 3, 2010, 23:30 GMT

    Ishant has great potential with his height being an advantage, but i think he needs some more coaching. He is leaking far to many runs. At 22 years of age, he has many years to develop and in the future could definitely be the fast bowling option that India needs and world number 1.

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