Today they came out with a plan and executed it to perfection. They played attacking cricket, promoted Adam Gilchrist, who delivered, and in the end were in a position to make a declaration. Though they lost two early wickets, Gilchrist kept the momentum going. The efforts of Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh and Ponting made the declaration possible. It left India to get 376 of 111 overs. The scenario was not too bright for India but after V V S Laxman's dismissal, Ramesh and Dravid batted well to negotiate the opening burst of Aussie bowlers. Their courageous effort in the end made it possible for India to save the game. India does have a chance but it is a tough ask.
Ajit Agarkar bowled with a lot of hostility. He generated pace and his bouncers were very deceptive. He has provided the much needed zip in India's attack. Agarkar initially put the breaks on Australia by claiming Slater and Langer's wickets. However, Adam Gilchrist proved to be a tough bat. Gilchrist justified Steve Waugh's faith in him. He was superb in his approach. He never missed an opportunity to score runs and got his second fifty of the game with a lot of panache. Gilchrist treated the short deliveries with disdain. Well, he seems to be doing nothing wrong except for the dropped chance of Ramesh.
Venkatesh Prasad, after the imposition of a line, seemed subdued. He bowled without any success. He got his leg cutters working, which particularly troubled Mark Waugh. Anil Kumble tried to extract some turn from the wicket by bowling slowly. He went for runs, but it is reassuring from India's point of view that he is among wickets. He got Blewett out with a peach. At times Srinath struggled as he could not come to grips with the ever-changing left and right hand combination but overall he bowled to a good line.
Mark Waugh was very tentative when he came in to bat but as his confidence grew, his batting also flourished. With Australia going for quick runs it was an ideal opportunity for him to come out and play his shots. In the first innings he showed lot of grit and determination. His second innings, fifty, will definitely ensure that he plays his 100th test match at Sydney.
India's tactics today were bewildering. After getting two wickets instead of pressing for a win by trying to get Australia out quickly, they allowed the opposition to get back in the game. A couple of lovely shots from Adam Gilchrist put India on the defensive. Immediately they let the game drift away by indulging in bowling their overs very slowly. Lack of urgency from India and change in attitude sent wrong signals to the Australian batsmen who look full advantage and got on top of the game. The batters realized at that stage that India was looking for the safe option of drawing the game instead of pressing for a win. With no pressure on them the Aussies grew from strength to strength and now, India is looking straight down the barrel.
India's think tank needs to do some introspection and realize that in their side they have three world class players who are capable of chasing in the need of the hour and to back their ability. It is also essential for each individual in the side to have confidence in his own competence and to brace himself to deliver. It applies to the bowlers as well. So far they have done a reasonable job and today it was essential that Sachin had more faith in his bowlers. An atmosphere has to be created where the Indian bowling attack should have the confidence of getting Australia out quickly. They are capable of it and now they should begin to think that they can do it.
The last test match of this century is interestingly poised. It promises to be a humdinger if the weather holds. For India to win the test match is a tall order. A positive approach is required to draw the game. A good score in the second innings will go a long way to boost the spirit of the Indian side. It will help them to go into the third test match with a better outlook.
The Aussies, on the other hand, will be stringing for the initial breakthrough and if they manage to get a couple of wickets, especially in the first hour, well then the art of winning is synonymous with the Australians.
I am convinced that this is one of the best batting sides to have left the shores of India. Winning abroad is never easy. The Indians need to create chances and capitalise on them.