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Kotla Test ends in a stalemate

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The third Test at Kotla has ended in an expected draw but amidst all the emotional celebration of Anil Kumble’s retirement. India had a slight stutter with the bat in their second innings but overcame that through a wonderful partnership between Tendulkar and Laxman. An hour after Tea came the breaking news that Anil Kumble has announced his retirement. With 25 overs left in the game, came a sudden declaration from India’s Captain after the game was well secured with a lead of 244. Anil Kumble gave himself an opportunity to bowl for one last time in his illustrious career and the crowd at the Kotla was well informed to cheer him.

When the final day’s play started, it was Australia, who were in with an outside chance of a victory. For that they needed to bundle out the Indians inside three hours or so. Brett Lee provided the early tremors by forcing Dravid to play onto his stumps to a quick inswinger. Rahul Dravid (11 from 37 with 2 fours) had yet another failure, this time it was a rash expansive drive that limited his stay at the wicket. India’s lead was going nowhere until Sachin joined Gambhir. Sachin Tendulkar, who has been in silken touch ever since he had knocked off Lara’s record, arrested the Aussie aggression with confident strokeplay off the backfoot. India’s lead finally got moving forward but a bad umpiring decision from Aleem Dar for once flawed to send back a well set Gautam Gambhir back to the pavilion to reduce India to a shaky 93 for 4.

Gambhir’s wicket went to Mitchell Johnson when the left armer had rapped him up on the pad around the middle and leg. It was a delivery that was clearly going down the legside with the angle from over the sticks. Gambhir followed up his first innings double century with another good contribution of 36 from 107 balls; the left hander scored 5 fours in that three-hour innings. India had a lead of just 135 when they went to lunch after a snail-paced first session that produced only 56 runs in 27 overs. But the best part for them was that both Sachin and no.4 Laxman were in rich form and the runs were bound to come in the next session. Strategically, India needed to bat for another 30 overs atleast and get around 100 runs or so which would take the lead to a secured 240.

Everything went according to the plan for India with Tendulkar and Laxman defending well and scoring well whenever the opportunity presented. They cruised through the first hour of the second session and the writing seemed to be on the wall that of a draw. Ponting had decided to give up as well by resting his main bowlers and operating with Clarke, White and Watson. Against the run of play, came the wicket of Tendulkar and that too for the least expected bowler – Cameron White. It was an embarrassing moment for Sachin when he couldn’t handle a bit of extra turn and bounce on the backfoot and surrender by edging that to Hayden at slip. Some people would say that it was a ploy to gift his wicket to White so that he plays in the Nagpur Test as well. Anyway, Sachin had already done his job by scoring 47 valuable runs and eating out 120 balls and 159 minutes of play. The little master though looked absolutely the vintage Tendulkar especially in his backfoot drives and cuts. When he got out, India were comfortably placed at 145 for 5 which was a lead of 181.

VVS Laxman was joined by Sourav Ganguly in the 58th over and the pair eased their side through the Tea session to 193 for 5. Laxman stroked his way to yet another half century and after tea, the two batsmen batted for about an hour before they were called back inside by their Captain. India finished their second innings at 208 for 5 having batted 77.3 overs. Laxman remained unbeaten on 59 with 7 fours from 130 balls and Ganguly made 32 from 53 balls with 3 fours and a six off Michael Clarke.

Australia had 23 overs to bat at the maximum with 15 of them being in the last hour. Anil Kumble straightaway took the new ball in a hope to add up a wicket or two to his career tally. He fired in mostly quicker deliveries and got nothing really to trouble Hayden and Katich. Australia finished at 31 for 0 in 8 overs in quick time thanks to the double spin attack of the Indians. Kumble’s final delivery of his career was a friendly full toss which was swung down the ground for a boundary by Matty Hayden. The Man of the Match award went to VVS Laxman but the centre of attraction was Anil Kumble, who was given a great farewell by all the people present in the stadium. The two teams now move onto Nagpur where the Aussies can only draw the series but can retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. MS Dhoni takes the charge as India’s new Test Captain as well and he has already shown his mettle as a leader in the Mohali Test.