Update at Stumps
The Boxing Day Test Match is hanging in the balance and most probably could head towards a climax tomorrow on the fourth day! The final session of play saw India breaking the Ponting-Hussey partnership that was threatening to take the game away. Three more strikes after Ponting’s exit and India sense a chance of winning this match as the Australian lead is 230. The hosts still have Michael Hussey in the middle though batting well on 79* and a lot will depend on him whether he can pull off those extra runs for the Aussies to feel comfortable about defending.
Things were slipping away from India in the evening as the Ponting-Hussey show continued and both the batsmen eased past their respective fifties. A bowling change to bring back Zaheer Khan with the old ball did the trick for MS Dhoni as the left armer got two quick wickets. First he got Ricky Ponting (60 form 97 balls with three fours) sucked up into a false drive to a full length reversing away swinger which resulted in a thick edge caught by Sehwag at gully. It was a desperate breakthrough for India as Ponting and Hussey had put up 115 runs for the fifth wicket by then.
Just about three overs after Ponting’s exit, an adventurous Brad Haddin (6) pushed hard and away from his body to a Zaheer delivery on the backfoot to edge him to second slip. About eight overs later, Umesh Yadav returning back to the attack got a short of length delivery to kick away with pace and bounce to force Peter Siddle to get caught brilliantly by a diving MS Dhoni.
Off Spinner R Ashwin too chipped in usefully for the visitors by getting a carom ball to skid through to have Nathan Lyon (0) hit on the pad as the tail-ender went back instead of coming forward. Australia slipped to 166 for 8 in 54 overs. The hosts finished the day at 179 for 8 in 60 overs. Umesh Yadav had a great day with figures of 4 for 49 in 15 overs.
Update at Tea Break
India after conceding a 51-run first innings lead bounced back in a dramatic fashion taking four Australian wickets cheaply. However, by Tea, the Aussies are back into a shape thanks to an unbeaten fifth wicket stand between veterans Ricky Ponting (33* from 54 balls with 2 fours) and Michael Hussey (29* from 44 balls with 4 fours) which has stretched the lead to 132 runs and the score to 81 for 4 in 26 overs.
Umesh Yadav was the chief destroyer for India taking the first three wickets to fall. Ishant Sharma who clocked around 150 kmph took one wicket. It took 7.1 overs for India to find their much needed breakthrough which came when David Warner (5 from 27 balls) attempting a forcing cut off a length ball from Yadav dragged it back onto the stumps. Three balls later, Ed Cowan (8) offered no shot to a length delivery that swung back and got hit on the pad infront of middle for an lbw. Yadav went onto remove another left hander, Shaun Marsh (3) dragging an expansive drive off a widish full delivery back onto the stumps off a bottom edge to reduce Australia to 24 for 3!
Ishant Sharma who started off on the shorter side was quick enough to adjust to a fuller length and he got rewarded with the wicket of Skipper Michael Clarke (1). It was a length delivery from Ishant which nipped back to force a bat pad inside edge that crashed onto the off stump through the gate. Australia was reeling at 27 for 4 when Ponting was joined by Hussey and the pair so far have survived some anxious moments to rebuild the lead.
Update at Lunch Break
India have been bowled out for 282 in 94.1 overs in their first innings which means that the Aussies have captured a crucial lead of 51 runs. Ben Hilfenhaus' maiden five-wicket haul in Tests demolished the Indian batting this morning. India lost seven wickets for just 68 runs this morning in 29.1 overs. Except for R Ashwin, who made 31 from 35 balls (with three fours and a six), none of the Indian batsmen contributed anything significant. Having said that, night watchman Ishant Sharma survived 69 balls for his 11 while other batsmen kept on losing wickets at the other end.
India's downslide started when Rahul Dravid (68), the overnight batsman was sent back to the pavilion with an absolute beauty from Ben Hilfenhaus in just the second ball of the day's play! It was a massive blow for India in their pursuit of getting closer to Australia 333! VVS Laxman lasted 22 balls scoring 2 before he was caught behind edging a Siddle outswinger to the keeper. Next man Young Virat Kohli (11) was looking good and positive at the crease until he felt for a delivery on the backfoot from Hilfenhaus which landed on off and was nipping away. All these wickets fell even before the second new ball was taken.
Skipper MS Dhoni walked back to the pavilion without a fight as he edged his expansive square drive off the second new ball to gully. Hilfenhaus was the wicket taker again which left India at 245 for 7 in 81.4 overs. Night watchman Ishant Sharma finally lost his patience and edged a booming coved drive to the Keeper off Hilfenhaus. Next man, Zaheer Khan (4) backed away from his stumps for a wild slog and got his off stump cleaned up by Pattinson's full and fast delivery.
Just when India were looking hopeless to concede a lead of around 70, Ashwin combined with Umesh Yadav to come up with a handy 23-run partnership for the last wicket. Ashwin was good on the backfoot and he even got a six thanks to a top edged pull off Pattinson.
- BV Swagath