Late wickets spoil strong Indian start

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 17:51 [IST]
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Late wickets spoil strong Indian start

PERTH: India lost four wickets in the final session to undo much of their earlier good work with the bat on the first day of the third Test against Australia at the WACA here Wednesday.

After Indian captain Anil Kumble won the toss and elected to bat, the tourists were 297 for six at stumps, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Irfan Pathan both undefeated on eight.

India started the day's final session in a commanding position at 177 for two, with star batsmen Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar in fine touch.

However, Tendulkar (71) was the victim of another poor umpiring decision, while Dravid (93) and VVS Laxman (26) threw their wickets away with poor shots to allow the home side back into the match.

Umpire Asad Rauf adjudged Tendulkar LBW to Brett Lee, who was the pick of the Australian bowlers with 3-64, despite the fact the ball appeared to be passing over the top of the stumps.

The dismissal meant India were 198 for three and it was a turning point in the day's play, with Sourav Ganguly then falling cheaply to Mitchell Johnson.

Dravid holed out to the innocuous off-spin of Andrew Symonds late in the day, and just six runs later Laxman fell to a similarly injudicious shot from the bowling of Lee, as India slipped to 284 for six.

It was a disappointing end to the day for the Indians, after Tendulkar and Dravid added 139 runs for the third wicket to steady their side following the loss of two quick wickets before lunch.

Back in his preferred position at number three, Dravid capitalised on an early let-off.

When on 11, he got an outside edge to a Lee delivery and it flew straight to Michael Clarke at first slip, who inexplicably grassed the regulation chance.

Indian would have been 85 for three and Dravid made the most of the good fortune as Australia's gamble on four fast bowlers appeared to backfire on a pitch that did not have the extreme pace and bounce that was predicted.

After appearing restricted at the top of the order in Melbourne and Sydney, Dravid showed he was steadily regaining his best form with some glorious cover drives.

A century beckoned until he suffered a lapse in concentration and scooped Symonds straight to Ricky Ponting at mid-off.

The reckless shot was totally at odds with his otherwise measured approach in 276 minutes at the crease, facing 183 balls and hitting 15 fours.

Dravid was furious with himself as he headed back to the pavilion.

Despite surviving a couple of confident LBW appeals, Tendulkar appeared set for his second century in as many matches until Lee struck.

The master batsman rarely looked troubled by the bowlers and twice simply glided short deliveries over the slips for four, including for his half-century.

The only Indian to have played Test cricket at the WACA, he was at the crease for 175 minutes, facing 128 balls and hitting nine boundaries.

The match follows a controversial week in the wake of the contentious second Test in Sydney, with claims of racial abuse, poor sportsmanship and substandard umpiring.

The Australians won the second Test by 122 runs to take a 2-0 lead in the four-match series and victory here would mean a world record 17th consecutive Test win.

The home side made two changes, with injured batsman Matthew Hayden replaced by uncapped opener Chris Rogers and speedster Shaun Tait, who struggled with the ball, coming in for spinner Brad Hogg.

India also made two changes, with spinner Harbhajan Singh, at the centre of the racism row in Sydney, dropped for Pathan and the struggling Yuvraj Singh replaced by Virender Sehwag, who made 29.

Australia, who went into the match without a specialist spinner for the first time since India's previous Test at the WACA in 1992, are undefeated since beating South Africa by 184 runs here two years ago.

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