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Watson,Haddin stem early Australian rot

By James Keith, IANS,

Bangalore : Shane Watson (batting 32) and Brad Haddin (batting 28) mixed aggression with caution to put a belligerent unconquered 65-run partnership against a dominant Indian attack that had Australia in doldrums on the fourth day of the first cricket Test here Sunday.

At draw of stumps , Australia had made 193 for five, extending their lead to 263. Earlier, they had bowled out India, who resumed at 313 for eight, for 360 to wrest a 70-run first innings lead.

If the Indian spirits were high in the early part of the post-tea session, it was deflated once Watson and Haddin, both aggressive batsmen by nature, opened their shoulders to play some robust strokes, scattering the cherry to all parts of the park.

Harbhajan, cock-a-hoop after deceiving Hussey with the “doosra” to which the left hander erroneously shouldered arms, tried all his wares on a degenerating track. But Haddin and Watson were up to the task. That runs, which were as dry until 50 overs as the taps in some parts of the silicon city, suddenly came in cascades ensured that Australia were in fine fettle, a position from where they can consolidate and strive for another Indian conquest here.

Ishant Sharma was all fire and brimstone in his third spell, during which he once again lured Michael Clarke into chipping a slower ball to Virender Sehwag at short extra-cover. But the sinewy quick, like Harbhajan, in his quest for pace, he lost direction and length, offering runs on a platter to an otherwise starved Australian innings.

Earlier, Zaheer Khan had begun an Australian exodus when he removed Matthew Hayden with a debatable leg before decision, again by umpire Asad Rauf. The ball seemed to be heading down the hill, but Rauf deemed Hayden, who had been victim of a poor verdict in the first innings as well, was plumb in front.

Ricky Ponting survived anxious moments against the wily Harbhajan before Ishant accounted for his scalp for the fourth time in four Tests. An intended clip to leg flying to Laxman at short mid-wicket.

At 49 for two, Australia needed Simon Katich (34), who was spilled by Gautam Gambhir at forward short-leg off Harbhajan when he had made five, and Michael Hussey (31) to lend stability to the rocking Australian ferry. The left handers rose to the occasion, adding 50 runs for the third wicket. But both departed in a trice, leaving the side reeling at 128 for 5. Watson and Haddin then set to repair the tottering innings.

India waged a dogged battle, consuming as many as 85 minutes before Australia wrapped up the innings. The tail, which showed more character than the top order, batted out 18 crucial overs in the morning session before Michael Clarke brought the curtains down on the innings 35 minutes before lunch, yorking Ishant (6).

The gallant Zaheer capped his first innings 5 for 91 with his second Test half century. Interestingly his unbeaten 57 was the highest score of the Indian innings. Harbhajan had made 54.

Left arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson (4 for 70) and all-rounder Shane Watson (3 for 35) shared the bowling honours for Australia, who conceded their highest extras (52) in an innings against India, bettering the 45 they had given away in 1986-87 at Mumbai.