Sachin Tendulkar played yet another crucial innings in the ongoing series against the Aussies to rescue India out of a tight situation. The master batsman recorded his 40th ton to lift the hosts to 311 for 5 in the fourth and final Test at a brand new stadium in Nagpur. Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman did their part through their valuable half centuries on a day that saw quite some dramatic moments. On a pitch that promises a lot for the spinners, India would be happy with the score at the end of the day’s play.
Toss : MS Dhoni was once again lucky with the toss and there was no hesitation at all in his mind as India elected to bat first. As expected there was a debutant in Murali Vijay, who was called up to replace the banned Gautam Gambhir. The Aussies made a surprising decision of bringing on debutant off spinner Jason Krejza and making way for him was the ever reliable Stuart Clark and not the overly useful Cameron White.
Morning Session play – Aussies bounce back after an early onslaught
There was good pace and carry for Australia’s quick bowlers – Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson. But India’s new opening combination of Sehwag and Vijay were well equipped to handle that and soon the bowlers were made to look flat through some attractive strokeplay. Debutant Murali Vijay was showing the world that he was indeed India material as he freely stroked the two fast bowlers on both the frontfoot and the backfoot. Ricky Ponting had no choice but to bring on rookie off spinner Jason Krejza into the attack. Sehwag went after him straightaway with total disrespect and Murali Vijay too showed who the boss was to the poor Krejza.
Runs kept on coming at a thick rate and the two openers almost got the 100-up on the board before Shane Watson banged one short with a lot of energy to earn the much needed breakthrough for his side. Murali Vijay for once showed that he was not a 100% against the short and quick stuff as he fended it behind the stumps, infact that was the only blemish in his 53-ball stay in the centre. Vijay scored 33 with 2 fours and certainly is here to stay in the international circuit. It was a job well done for the no.3 Rahul Dravid to walk in at 98 for 1 in the 18th over. But Dravid perished five balls after Vijay and that too off Jason Krejza’s off breaks. He faced just the two deliveries in this forgettable stay of his in the middle. Dravid failed to stop himself from committing on the frontfoot and it was too difficult not to get a glove to a delivery that kicked and turned onto him to give a simple catch to short leg. It was a massive wicket for the debutant spinner, who was taken for more than 30 runs in his first three overs! Dravid walked back along with a duck to accompany him.
In the 23rd over, the match tilted in favour of the Aussies totally when Sehwag tried to be too cute in trying to cut against the turn off Krejza. All Viru could do was to inside edge his shot back onto the stumps to reduce the score to 116 for 3 in the 23rd over. Sehwag otherwise did a fabulous job of smashing away 66 runs with 9 fours and a six in 69 balls in an effortless innings. When Laxman, who is playing in his 100th Test walked in to join Tendulkar, India atleast had a start in its innings and it was just matter of putting the heads down and consolidating. India went to lunch at 122 for 3 in 24 overs with the Australians failing to keep up a good over rate like always.
Afternoon Session – India consolidate through Sachin and VVS
The afternoon session was a crucial one for both the sides. A couple of mistakes in that session from the batting side would have given the opening for the Australian bowlers to seize the initiative. But they were against the inform pair of Sachin and VVS, who were not prepared to give away even an inch. Both the right handers milked the runs easily and most importantly batted according to the merit of the bowling to collect 80 runs without losing a single wicket in the 27 overs of play. Tendulkar helped himself to 62 while Laxman was looking solid with 34.
Final Session – Sachin cracks a ton but gets out in the fag end
Having got to 202 for 3 at Tea, there was a sense of security in the Indian camp. The Australian captain was under the pressure to get as many overs as possible to make up for the dismal over rates early on. For that he had to employ spin at both ends in the form of Krejza and White. Krejza failed to find the consistency levels in bowling a long spell and that helped the Indians get a lot of free runs. However, against the run of play, he did manage to capture another big wicket that of VVS Laxman to bring back some joy for his colleagues. Laxman too fell like Sehwag that of attempting a terrible cut shot against a big turning off break. Laxman was caught behind though and his cut was played infront of the middle stump! But a score of 64 (from 141 balls with 5 fours) was good enough to lift India out of the woods to 262 for 4 in the 69th over.
There were a couple of instances when the Aussies could have broken the 5th wicket stand between Tendulkar and Laxman. On both occasions it was Tendulkar, who got the life, first was a run out miss when he was miles away from getting to the non striker’s end and the second one an overhead skier put down by Johnson off Krejza. The two reprieves came during the late stages of the 146-run partnership though. Sachin’s luck continued to stay with him even during his 90s as he tried to yet again jump down the track and loft Krejza in the stands. For the second time, Tendulkar miscued it up in the air and got dropped at long off, this time it was a difficult one for Lee. Sachin finally could break the jinx of getting out in the 80s and the 90s when he cut Krejza to the boundary to become the first player in the history to record 40 test hundreds.
Sachin Tendulkar fell once again in the fag end of the day’s play like in Mohali. He was rapped up infront of middle by a skidding delivery from Mitchell Johnson. Sachin made 109 with a dozen boundaries in just 188 balls. India ended the day’s play without any further damage through a determined Ganguly (27 from 59 balls with 3 fours) and a brave MS Dhoni (4 from 11 balls), who was even prepared to take the body blows to preserve his wicket. Ganguly, who is playing in his last test still showed that he has all the class in his batting. The Bengal Tiger would be trying every bit to end up with a century each in his debut test and in his final test.
India’s objective is to get to 400 and leave the rest to Harbhajan Singh to make most of the red soil nature of the wicket. Australia’s hero of the day was the tall Jason Krejza, who proved that he should have been picked in the first three Tests as well. The Indians though clobbered him for 138 runs at a costly loss of three wickets. With runs already conceded, the Australians once again need their batsmen to save them.