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Hayden, Ponting excel but Viru provides hope for India

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Australian batsmen stood up to the challenge of surviving on a track that often provided a lot of bite and turn for the spinners. The visitors in response to India’s 613/7 d have ended the third day on a strong note at 338 for 4. But there is still plenty of cricket left in the remaining two days with the pitch expected to crack up quickly. Hayden and Ponting, the senior most batsmen led the way with their solid knocks. India were kept in the hunt by Virender Sehwag’s magic deliveries which produced three out of the four wickets that fell today.

It was a hazy morning at Delhi and the first delivery from Zaheer Khan smacked big Matty Hayden on his helmet. The left hander was totally outsmarted by the left armer but it was only for a little while. Hayden and Katich after some initial stutters could calm the nerves of the dressing room with their good batting. Katich went onto outscore Hayden and could bring up a half century very soon with the Indians in an attacking mode giving away runs liberally.

It was only 30 minutes before lunch that the home side could taste their first success when Katich got cleaned up by a sharp leg break from Amit Mishra. Katich had jumped down the track and was way too soon in closing the face of the blade in his flick shot. Mishra’s leg break had enough gap to sneak through and hit the stumps and Katich had to settle to a score of 64 (from 116 balls with 10 fours). Ponting along with Hayden made sure that the Aussies didn’t face any damage before lunch taking the score to 151 for 1 in 40 overs.

India faced a big blow in the afternoon session when Anil Kumble split his webbing on the left hand while trying to take a spectacular leaping catch at mid wicket. It was a full blooded heave from Hayden off the bowling of Mishra that would make Kumble disappear out of the field for the rest of the day. Sehwag was given a decent spell because of Kumble’s absence and that brought life back in the home side when an arm ball from the off spinner trapped Hayden infront of the stumps. Hayden missed out on a hundred as he made the fatal mistake of not picking the arm ball. He made 83 with 13 fours and a six from 154 balls.

The Aussies went into Tea at 237 for 2 in 70 overs and it now required Ponting to play a big innings. Ponting and his new partner Hussey were put to test by an excellent spell of reverse swing from Ishant and Zaheer after Tea. It did put a lid on the scoring but the two batsmen were just lucky to have survived that tricky phase and once again spinners were called back. In the 86th over, Sehwag produced his magic for the second time in the day when he deceived Ponting in the air and got him to play all around a sharp turning off break after jumping down the track. Like Hayden, Ponting also missed out on a hundred; he scored 87 with 14 fours from 165 balls.

India had finally got the opening that they were looking for to run through the Australian batting line-up. Dhoni to make things better for the spinners took the second new ball which was shared by Ishant and Sehwag. Once again a magical delivery from Sehwag pegged back the batting side which was cruising through. Hussey, who was batting like a rock lost his off stump by a flat off break which pitched around leg and middle and turned away sharply. Sehwag, who was bowling mostly from round the sticks had bowled this delivery from over the sticks after a suggestion from perhaps Tendulkar and the plan worked out immediately! Hussey by then had played a stubborn knock of 53 from 146 balls which contained 7 fours.

Australia saw the fag end of the day’s play through the nervous Michael Clarke (21* from 45 with 1 four) and Shane Watson (4*). Sehwag ended up with figures of 22-4-66-3. Amit Mishra bowled superbly as well and was lucky to have gone past the outside edges on numerous occasions with some ripping leg breaks.

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