Sehwag checks Australia’s run flow with three wickets

By Avishek Roy, IANS,

New Delhi : The top four Australia batsmen scored plucky half-centuries before Virender Sehwag struck in fading light to bring smiles back in the Indian camp on the third day of the third cricket Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium here Friday.

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Simon Katich (64), Matthew Hayden (83), skipper Ricky Ponting (87) and Michael Hussey (53) all rode their luck in carrying Australia to 338 for four by stumps. The visitors, who trail 1-0 in the series, are still 275 run behind India’s huge first innings total of 613 for seven declared.

Michael Clarke (21 batting) survived a few close shouts in the closing stages of the game to accompany Shane Watson (4 batting) to the dressing room.

Sehwag (3 for 66) got rid of Hussey three overs from the close of play with the second new ball that India took seven overs from the close of play. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was leading in the absence of injured Anil Kumble, took one last chance of throwing the ball to the spinners and that paid off. While Sehwag removed Hussey, Clarke was lucky to survive Amit Mishra’s biting spin.

Indian bowlers made the Australian top-order look ordinary and vulnerable. The spinning trio of Kumble, Mishra and Sehwag got the ball to turn and bounce posing questions for the batsmen.

Seamers Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma also deserve a pat on their back for bowling probing spells, making the ball to swing and drift on a wicket where the Australian pace battery were innocuous.

Australia’s tactics off hitting their way out of trouble paid dividends but the hosts, too, were unlucky not to have ended up with more wickets.

But part-timer Sehwag was the pick of the lot and the Australians were visibly uncomfortable reading his off-spin. Imagine Harbhajan bowling on this wicket.

To add to their woes, India’s most potent weapon Kumble could bowl only 13 overs in the day before being rushed to a hospital after a gash in his little finger of the left hand needed medical attention. He was injured attempting a difficult catch as Hayden drove Mishra in the post lunch session.

Sehwag made up for the captain’s absence. He was handful for the batsmen and produced a vital wicket by clipping Hussey’s stumps.

The day started on an exciting note for India as Zaheer’s well-directed bouncer crashed into Hayden’s helmet twice in the first over of the day.

With a nippy wind blowing across and a thin layer of fog hanging over Kotla, the stage was set for the fast bowlers to operate. Zaheer and Ishant used the conditions well.

Zaheer, who had the upper hand against Hayden in the series, had his plan chalked out for the left-hander, testing him with short-pitched deliveries.

Hayden and Katich were certainly not in control but managed well to defy Indians the early breakthrough. They never looked settled and their attacking shots lacked conviction.

Kumble, who opened the bowling with Zaheer, was accurate and a tentative Katich found it difficult to judge the length of the ball, pushing and nudging his way.

But it was Mishra who provided India the breakthrough crashing through the defence of Katich with one that turned sharply when the opener went for a big hit. The dismissal ended the 123-run resistance of Katich and Hayden.

Hayden reached his fifty batting aggressively, though the burly opener hardly looked comfortable during his four-hour stay (154 balls, 13×4, 1×6) before Sehwag trapped him lbw, the only wicket to fall in the second session.

After Hayden, Ponting carried the fight, getting to his half century in 101 balls with eight fours.

Hussey and Ponting then survived a torrid spell of Sharma and Zaheer, who bowled seven overs on the trot after tea. Interestingly, Zaheer, who had a lively burst in the morning, did not bowl a single over in the post lunch session.

Sehwag then rattled Ponting’s stumps, the Australian skipper’s scratchy innings containing 14 fours in 225 minutes, facing 165 balls, coming to an end at last.