'Ton'dulkar saves the day for India

Written by: Syed Saba Karim
Published: Thursday, December 23, 1999, 0:00 [IST]
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The first hour of the opening session of the third day's play favoured exclusively the Indians. As the pitch began to show itself on the whimsical side the day seemed right for Javagal Srinath (4 for 130). On more than two occasions in the first over Srinath beat the batsman. Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting could not battle any longer and departed at 78 and 67 respectively. Shane Warne scored only two runs before he was sent back.

The next six and more hours were gruelling for the Indians. India's poor performance by the opening pair brought in immense disappointment. A solid foundation was imperative to get past the Australian total of 405.

Brett Lee came on to bat at the MCG together with Fleming. The duo frustrated the Indian bowling with their partnership bringing about 59 runs. Fleming proved that as a test batsman he is soon securing his position. Lee after some early hiccups played fearlessly. Glenn McGrath (1) was ruled run out. But it seemed that the throw from the cover by Hrikesh Kanitkar had not hit the stumps before Sachin dislodged the bails. Umpire David Shepherd seemed quite certain about McGrath being out.

This was to be debutante Brett Lee's day as the events unfolded. It was a disaster for tourists and sheer exuberance for this New South Wales speedster and his teammates before half an hour lunch was declared. Lee's fourth delivery at the test level on a flawless line forced S Ramesh to inside edge it into his stumps. VVS Lakshman (5) followed soon trying to push a faultless Lee delivery. The mid-afternoon brought Lee in his second spell as he switched to the Member's end. This brought about an ordinary dismissal of Rahul Dravid as he tried to half cut and half slash at a short delivery of Lee, which held its line wide outside the off stumps.

The Indian dressing room must have brightened as the 77-run partnership between Saurav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar moored the innings for the Indians. Even the Aussie supporters applauded the glorious shots from the stylish Saurav. The earlier blemishes of the Indians were forgotten as the two cut and drove. Saurav perished at 31 of a great catch by Mark Waugh.

Sachin looked determined to save the Indians from a follow on which seemed imminent. Sachin dug his heels in the face of crumbling batsman on the other side of the crease. Kanitkar looked solid for a while before he fell offering a no shot.

In came utter devastation for the Indians again in the form of Lee in his third spell. His fifth over reduced India from 5/167 to 8/169 within six balls. A powerful yorker with sheer pace blew the off stump of MSK Prasad (6). Another thunderous full toss stuck in Agit Agarkar's toe, which anyway would have sent his off stump yards away. Lee missed his hat trick but was quick to get rid of Srinath in his sixth ball.

Anil Kumble came in and provided the much required support to Sachin as India needed 34 runs with two wickets in hand to avoid a follow on. Ignoring his hurting arm, Sachin reached his 100 in 175 balls. His 254-minute stay at the crease ensured that India avoided the follow on when they reached 206/8 but the job was not yet over.

Sachin's 22nd hundred, first at this venue, and fifth against Australia was a sheer joy to watch. He seems very geared up against Australia as we witnessed earlier while he played with great aplomb in Sharjah and his century in India against Australia was exemplary. Sachin departed off the bowling of Fleming as he skied a hook to Justin Langer at deep backward square leg.

Venkatesh Prasad came in with Kumble and their 66-run partnership was commendable. They played with vigour and thought and stood in contrast to the top half of the Indian batting line up.

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