Team India has found itself in a great position to topple Australia in their own den. The swinging kookaburra ball did all the damage on the second day to power India to a healthy 118-run first innings lead. The Indian batting in the form of Virender Sehwag (29 not out) came good to stretch the lead further to 170 with 9 more wickets standing at the close of an eventful day in which 14 wickets went down! It was also a memorable day in Indian Cricket with India’s best bowler ever Anil Kumble taking his 600th wicket.
Resuming the second day’s play with a dream of getting to 400, the Indians approached the challenge with great spirit. Overnight batsmen MS Dhoni and Irfan Pathan fought their way in the middle with some gutsy character. Dhoni even took some blows on his body but never really gave any chances for his wicket to be taken. Both these all-rounders started to worry Ponting but fortunately for his team, a bad lbw decision gave them the much needed break to end the 44-run stand. Asad Rauf yet again gave an lbw decision to a length ball on the WACA pitch which always goes over the top of the stumps. Once Dhoni (19 from 52 with 2 fours) was dismissed, the Aussies didn’t waste any time in wiping off the tail. The Aussies took the next three wickets in the space of eight balls. Irfan Pathan made a valuable contribution of 28 (from 44 balls with 4 fours) before missing a swinging full toss from Johnson, who finished with 4 for 86. Stuart Clark found a couple of wickets as well towards the end.
Australia had a good 45 minutes or so to bat before the lunch break. It was a different opening combination for them and thankfully for India, there was no intimidating figure like Matthew Hayden to content with. India and Irfan Pathan were extremely lucky to have found a quick breakthrough in the 4th over when Asad Rauf gave his third wrong lbw decision. Rogers (4) failed to connect a full length inswinger after shuffling across the stumps but was unlucky as the ball would have swung down the legstump. In the same over, Irfan Pathan struck again and this time he induced Jaques (8) in a false drive to get him caught in the slips. Same was the case with Michael Hussey (0) with the only difference being RP Singh, who was the wicket taker to reduce Australia to 22 for 3 at lunch!
Aussies had to do the repair job in the afternoon but they had two out of form batsmen in Ponting and Clarke. And both didn’t last long enough to put their team in the dumps at 61 for 5 in the 19th over. It was not Irfan or RP taking those wickets but it was the 19-year-old Ishant Sharma who made his presence felt. First he got Ponting in two minds, whether to play him off the frontfoot or the backfoot, and before he could do anything, a catch was taken in the slips by Dravid. Ponting (20 from 35) jabbed hard to that delivery which also moved away a fraction off the track. Michael Clarke fell in the trap of going for a cover drive to a delivery that wasn’t up for it and also had seamed away slightly. The Aussies soon would have even lost Symonds quickly but for a dropped catch from Tendulkar at first slip, the bowler was Irfan Pathan.
Jumbo takes his 600th Test Wicket!
Symonds and Gilchrist were the last recognized batting pair and what they could do was to play their natural game which is to hit out of trouble. Gilchrist started the counter attack which was followed up by Symonds. Within no time the score raced away to 148 at 5 in just 31 overs at tea with Symonds onto 56 and Gilchrist on 34. After Tea came the historical moment when Anil Kumble got rid of Symonds to take his 600th Test wicket! Symonds was looking to play a late cut past slip, but the shot hit the gloves off Dhoni and went and straight to Dravid at slip. That ended a dangerous partnership of 102 which came in just 17.2 overs! Symonds hammered 66 in 70 balls with 7 fours and a six. Kumble with that wicket became the first Indian to achieve this feat and the third bowler behind Shane Warne and Muralitharan to get to 600 wickets!
RP Singh wipes off the rest of the batting
After Symonds’ exit, Gilchrist increased the tempo by smashing RP Singh for three consecutive fours in his comeback spell. But an angry RP Singh ran in and bent his back to bowl an absolute jaffa that forced Gilchrist to fend it behind. That was also the ball of the test match and could have got the wicket of anybody in the world. Gilchrist made 55 from 61 with 9 fours. The Australian tail didn’t wag at all thanks to RP Singh, who took the wickets of Lee and Stuart Clark in the 47th over. Anil Kumble finished things off after taking a return ‘bat pad’ catch from Shaun Tait. Australia crashed to 212 with the innings lasting only 50 overs. RP Singh finished with 4 for 68 in 14 overs while Pathan, Ishant Sharma (7-0-34-2) and Anil Kumble took two wickets each.
Sehwag and Jaffer after that were keen to drive home the advantage. They were helped by an early removal of Brett Lee from the attack as he struggled to get his run-up right. The only bowler who was looking dangerous was Stuart Clark and he was the one giving the much needed break for his side. For once, Jaffer didn’t get out to Brett Lee. But he ended up with yet another failure, this time making 11 and also lasting only 27 deliveries. India though got to a nice start with Virender Sehwag smashing the ball whenever it was there in his slot which got the lead moving up. Jaffer was dismissed with just about 10 or 15 minutes to go for the close. Irfan Pathan was sent in as the night watchman and he did his job well to see India safely at 52 for 1 in just 11 overs. Sehwag, who doesn’t really have a good second innings’ record got 29 from 36 with 5 fours while extras contributed a useful 10 to stretch the lead to 170. The last over of the day was absolutely funny. Shaun Tait was the bowler who didn’t match the high standards that the Aussies have maintained over the years. He sprayed the ball on both sides of the wicket which didn’t make Pathan play at all. To add to Ponting’s woes by bowling a 10-ball over which was filled with two no balls and two wides. What was supposed to be the penultimate over became the last over of the day.
Just the 75 overs were bowled on a hot day at the WACA but it was enough to take the test match forward by leaps and bounds with three full days waiting. Australia have their backs against the wall if they have to win this test match and break Steve Waugh’s record of 16 test wins on the trot. For now, it looks as if India might create history at Perth which no other team has done for more than 10 years or so!