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Even Stevens at Sydney after Tendulkar-Harbhajan rescue act

Related Links : India’s Tour of Australia 2007/08 : Scorecard

Even after three days of cricket, the Sydney Test is well balanced to head towards an unpredictable finish with all the three results having equal chances. The Indian batsmen have fought hard for two days to get ahead of Australia by 69 runs, but the question is whether that lead is of any significance or not. However, to get that lead itself was a great achievement for the tourists as they were plenty of highs and lows in their innings. Sachin Tendulkar, like VVS Laxman, continued his love affair with the Sydney Cricket Ground. A masterly 154 not out from him ensured that India were in the race to challenge the Aussies’ winning streak.

The partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly coming into the third day’s play was the key for any outcome of this match. This fourth wicket partnership was so vital as the next two batsmen – Yuvraj and Dhoni haven’t looked good on this tour to make any serious contributions. The old pair of Sachin and Sourav therefore made sure that they held the batting together in the first session. Both were positive in their strokeplay to keep the scoreboard busy. Ganguly, in particular was brilliant in his timing against both the quicks and the spinners. He treated Brad Hogg with disdain, but one shot too many cost his wicket against the same bowler just before the second new ball was due. Ganguly’s breezy knock of 67 (from 78 balls with 7 fours and a six) had a premature end as he holed out to mid off. His partnership with Tendulkar was worth 108.

Yuvraj, the next man had to soon bat out against the second new ball. He seemed to have got into some sort of touch after collecting a couple of good boundaries. But the cardinal mistake of playing right across the line saw his downfall against Mitchell Johnson. Yuvraj made only 12 and India at lunch slipped to 322 for 5. Tendulkar was the only hope now for the Indians. Dhoni failed yet again like Yuvraj to pile up further pressure on Tendulkar and India. Dhoni (2 from 13 balls) was done in by the extra bounce generated by Lee after he was trying to play a forcing shot with a straight bat rather than employing a square cut. The Indian Captain, Anil Kumble known for his stubborn defence didn’t last long as well to have India at 345 for 7. It was Brett Lee taking these two wickets after tea. Tendulkar fortunately got Harbhajan Singh to bat sensibly to forge together a partnership. While Tendulkar kept on batting smoothly, Harbhajan every now and then showed that he too can strike the ball sweetly to add up some valuable runs. He helped Tendulkar get to his 38th Test match hundred as well by keeping his end safe. At Tea, India were happy at 424 for 7.

For Tendulkar, it was his 8th hundred against the Aussies and this one took only 160 balls. After Tea, Harbhajan helped himself with his 3rd half century. He even had an argument with the Australian fielders in between overs which was calmed down by Tendulkar. Eventually, the breakthrough came for the Aussies when Harbhajan was caught at gully off Mitchell Johnson. But it wasn’t before he had made 63 (from 92 balls with 8 fours) to build a partnership of 129 in around 30 overs!

The Aussies still couldn’t run through the remaining two tail enders as RP Singh and Ishant Sharma showed solid defence to support Tendulkar. While RP Singh made 13 from 22, Ishant Sharma made 23 from 34 (with 5 fours) to help Tendulkar put on 58 for the last two wickets. Tendulkar, despite having the no. 10 and no.11 with him didn’t quite change his tactics and ended up unbeaten on 154 (from 243 balls with 14 fours and a six). In fact, the last wicket partnership of 31 saw Ishant Sharma make 23 with some good and some lucky shots. Tendulkar showed lot of faith in both RP and Ishant as he took a single very early in an over and wasn’t afraid of exposing them. For Tendulkar’s defense, he would have had to take the aerial route and clear all the men in the deep if he had to collect some quick fours and sixes. India were bowled out for 532 in 138.2 overs when Ishant Sharma fended a short delivery to Brett Lee off his own bowling.

Brett Lee finished with a maiden fifer at his home ground. All the frontline bowlers conceded more than a century with the exception of Stuart Clark, who bowled only 25 overs. India took a lead of 69 and by stumps, the two Australian openers took 13 out of that by negotiating 5 overs towards the end.