India’s chances of winning the third test and sealing the series have become nullified after a solid Australian batting reply. It is the homeside that is now put on the backfoot at 43 for 2 in their second innings after the Kangaroos had piled up as many as 577 in their first innings. The Test Match is heading out for a draw barring for a dramatic batting collapse from the Indians, who are with a lead of 79. The Australian first innings lasted as many as 179.3 overs which exhausted the fielding side and brought out atleast three dropped catches on the fourth day.
The Australians started the fourth day’s play looking to avoid the follow-on. The overnight pair of Michael Clarke and Shane Watson began positively and the luck was with them. Clarke had an early reprieve when his flat lofted shot was not caught at mid off by Ishant Sharma off Amit Mishra’s bowling when he was just on 21. Watson had a few miscued hits but soon started to look comfortable along with his partner. It looked that the pair would comfortably survive the first session but once again it was Sehwag breaking yet another partnership with a magic delivery. This time it was Watson who exposed his leg stump while shuffling across on the backfoot to work an off break which spun sharply to hit the timber. Watson scored 36 with 8 fours in 62 balls while adding 73 precious runs with Clarke for the 5th wicket.
It was after drinks that Anil Kumble first appeared on the field after yesterday’s hand injury. Kumble had received 11 stitched on his left hand and he straightaway got himself into the attack. Michael Clarke who was joined by Brad Haddin didn’t face any trouble from the Indian Captain and they got their team past the follow-on target. In the 132nd over, Haddin (17 from 35 balls with a four and a six) provided a much needed reprieve for Kumble when he had jumped down the track to play a big shot but only to miss what was a googly and give an easy stumping for MS Dhoni. It was Kumble’s first wicket of the series and he had to wait for more than 80 overs for that! Australia went to lunch at 436 for 6 in 136 overs and at this stage the chances of an Indian win looked very slim.
The afternoon session saw yet another partnership defy the fielding side as Cameron White finally showed some much needed application in his batting. It came to a stage when the two right handers were in total control and there wasn’t much to choose between the two sides in terms of the totals. Michael Clarke was very lucky when a sitter was dropped at mid wicket by Laxman in a top edged sweep shot and a couple of overs later when a flat sweep shot was put down by Amit Mishra at the boundary. The unlucky bowler on both the occasions was Virender Sehwag, who would have got a maiden 5-wicket but for those elementary dropped catches.
Sehwag was destined to get his 5-wicket haul all on his own, without the help of any fielder when White caused his own downfall by dragging a sweep shot back onto the stumps. White perished after making a career best of 44 with the help of 5 fours and a six and facing 95 balls. Michael Clarke got his 8th test hundred in the last ball of the session and Australia got to 539 for 7.
The Indian fielding finally got its act right and that brought an end to the Australian innings after more than an hour’s play in the last session. The batsmen including Michael Clarke had started to throw caution to the winds once their team got into the safety zone. Clarke made 112 with 6 fours and a six from 253 balls but thanks to three lives! Anil Kumble picked up a couple of cheap wickets towards the end. The extras conceded by the Indians were as many as 57 which included 28 byes that came whenever the ball misbehaved off the rough.
The homeside had to bat out 13 overs before the close which they did losing two wickets that of Virender Sehwag (bowled off the inside edge in a tentative drive on the up off Lee) and night watchman Ishant Sharma (fending a rising delivery from Stuart Clark). Sehwag had lasted 17 balls in which he got 16 runs with 2 fours. His opening partner, Gautam Gambhir was very assured in his unbeaten knock of 21 from 44 balls while Rahul Dravid got hit on his wrist by a rising delivery in his unbeaten stay of 15 balls.