Ruthless Aussies tighten noose on India

Published: Thursday, December 27, 2007, 13:02 [IST]
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Melbourne: Pacemen Brett Lee and Stuart Clark captured four wickets each to deliver Australia a potential match-winning innings lead over India in the first cricket Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Faltering India conceded a 147-run innings deficit on a wearing drop-in pitch with the opening match of the four-Test series seemingly Australia's to lose over the remaining three days.

At stumps, Australia were on track for their 15th consecutive Test win and were cruising at 32 without loss with Matthew Hayden on 22 and Phil Jaques 10, representing an overall lead of 179 runs with 10 wickets intact.


Late-blooming seamer Clark struck three times in 12 balls in his 4-28 to seize the initiative sparked by the coveted scalp of Sachin Tendulkar and Lee continued his glorious summer to finish with 4-46.

Clark removed Tendulkar just when the 'The Little Master' was in ominous touch and followed up with the dismissals of Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Dhoni in the same over either side of tea.

Clark, who made his Test debut at the age of 30, has now taken 58 wickets at 19.32 in his 12th Test, while Lee, man-of-the-series against Sri Lanka last month, took his Test tally to 250 wickets.

Tendulkar was in his pomp, caressing drives and cuts for boundaries and crashed leg-spinner Brad Hogg for a huge six before he chopped a Clark delivery on to his stumps for 62 nearing tea.

Tendulkar, playing in his farewell MCG Test, slowly left the arena to sustained applause from the appreciative Australian crowd and with him India's chances disappeared of overhauling Australia's first innings total.

The batting superstar was a delight for the MCG crowd after India's openers were bogged down by accurate Australian bowling with his 62 coming off 77 balls with eight boundaries and a six.

Singh was out in Clark's final over before tea, edging to Adam Gilchrist for a duck and he removed Dhoni for a duck to complete his over after the resumption.

Hogg, playing in his first Test for more than four years, chipped in with the wickets of Sourav Ganguly (43) and Harbhajan Singh (2).

Australia's new-ball pair Lee and Mitchell Johnson pinned down the Indian openers Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid with just 13 runs coming off the first 14 overs.

Lee coaxed an edge off Jaffer (4) to Adam Gilchrist and Dravid's torturous innings of five off 66 balls ended when Clark trapped him leg before wicket on the third-last ball of the morning session.

Dravid, known as 'The Wall', laboured for 41 balls to get off the mark after having two near-misses. He was dropped at fourth slip by Phil Jaques off Johnson and was caught at first slip off a Johnson no-ball.

After lunch Lee blasted out V.V.S. Laxman, who averages almost 60 playing in Australia, for 26 when he gloved a catch to Ponting running in from second slip as he tried to avoid a vicious rearing delivery.

Lee also picked up Anil Kumble caught behind for 27 to take his 250th Test wicket to become the sixth all-time leading Australian wicket-taker overtaking Richie Benaud. He finished with the dismissal of Zaheer Khan (11).

Australia's last-wicket pair, Clark and Johnson, lasted 16 balls at the start of the day and added six runs before Clark was out hooking paceman Zaheer Khan.

Zaheer peppered Clark with four short-pitched deliveries before Clark launched into a hook and was caught on the fine leg boundary rope by Harbhajan Singh to end Australia's innings. Johnson remained unbeaten on 15.

Zaheer finished with 4-94 off 23.4 overs while Kumble took 5-84 off 25 overs.


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