India have done everything on the third day at the WACA to keep Australia out of the match. They are also wonderfully placed to not only beat the Aussies at their stronghold venue but also to spoil their dreams of setting up a new winning streak of 17 Tests on the trot. The Aussies have their backs to the wall as they approach the fourth day’s play with 8 wickets in hand and to get another 348 runs. A draw is out of the window with two full days to go and the weather being hot and sunny.
Irfan Pathan and VVS Laxman were the heroes of the day for India. The rest of the players as well chipped in to make it a collective effort as India ruled the WACA for a second consecutive day. They made 294 in their second innings which set up an almost impossible target of 413 in the fourth innings. The homeside has already lost its openers in the 15 overs that they had to bat today. Irfan Pathan, who had earlier went onto make a crucial 46 (from 64 balls with 6 fours) as a night watchman took both these wickets. Both the openers were done in the by the away swinging deliveries from Irfan Pathan. Australia finished the day at 65 for 2 with Ponting on 24 (from 27 with 2 fours) and Michael Hussey on 5. Australia’s cricketing history says that they did chase a target of 400 plus in the fourth innings once but that way back in the black and white era of Bradman & co. Eight years ago, the Aussies had a great chase making 369 against Pakistan with Gilchrist smashing 149* but again that was not at Perth and was at Hobart.
When play resumed on the third day, India had the advantage of being ahead by 170 runs. Virender Sehwag and night watchman Irfan Pathan batted beautifully which didn’t quite allow the pressure to be built. Australia was looking for quick wickets and they found one finally in the 8th over of the day when Stuart Clark got one to cut back to bowl Virender Sehwag (43 from 61 with 7 fours). In the next over, Brett Lee took the responsibility to remove Dravid (3) cheaply after he had forced him to nick one outside off to make it 82 for 3. The same bowler went onto get rid of the little master – Sachin Tendulkar (13 from 25) as he got him plumb infront with a quick inswinger. Tendulkar’s wicket fell in the 25th over and in the very next over, Ganguly ended the Test Match with a double failure and got out twice to Mitchell Johnson. He was out for a duck after failing to get his footwork right. Now India were in trouble at 125 for 5 with a lead of 233.
The Aussies failed to deliver the knock out punch here with only Brett Lee and Stuart Clark bowling outstandingly well. Johnson was fine in patches while Shaun Tait had zero contribution. Johnson, who did get the wicket of Ganguly was severely punished by Irfan Pathan with his sweetly timed drives and cuts which got runs at a fast clip. India sort of recovered by lunch at 158 for 5 with their lead moving onto 273. After lunch, Irfan didn’t last long to miss out on a well deserved half century. He fell for 46 (from 64 balls with 6 fours) jabbing at a delivery around off stump from Stuart Clark. The new man in MS Dhoni joined a smoothly flowing VVS Laxman. While Dhoni battled it out with his limited footwork and technique, VVS Laxman got the scoreboard moving. After lunch, the runs were extremely hard to come by with India crawling at just over 1.00 rpo.
There was a blessing in disguise for Laxman and Dhoni and that was when Ponting was forced to bring on the spin of Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds. That move was only to increase the otherwise pathetic over rate which would have even given a possible suspension for Ponting in the neat future. Dhoni took advantage of the two spinners and he used his feet twice to smash two sixes which got India in a secured position. India had things under control and a wicket was tough to come by until MS Dhoni (38 from 87 with 2 fours and 2 sixes) got a top edge to his cute paddle that was brilliantly caught by a diving Gilchrist. India were now 235 for 7 in the 63rd over and in the same over, Symonds got Anil Kumble nicking his straighter one to the slip to make it 235 for 8.
India had a lead of 353 which was still very good but had to get some extra runs as a cushion. And that was possible thanks to a spirited batting show from no.10 RP Singh. Not only did he survive but he had also hit some important lofted shots that comfortably took India past a lead of 400. VVS Laxman held his end well to manage a hostile Brett Lee. Both RP Singh (30 from 59 with 3 fours and a six) and VVS Laxman (79 from 156 with 8 fours) fell eventually but not before helping India put up a target of 413. India were bowled out for a very good second innings total of 294 in 80.4 overs. Stuart Clark (4 for 61) and Brett Lee (3 for 54) got nice figures but clearly lacked support from other bowlers.