Sachin, Vijay steady India’s innings after Australia post 478

By Fakir Balaji, IANS,

Bangalore: Batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar and opener Murali Vijay steadied India’s first innings, taking it to 128 for two in reply to Australia’s 478, at the close of second day’s play in the second and the final cricket Test at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium here Sunday.

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The early exit of dashing opener Virender Sehwag (30) and local star Rahul Dravid (1) in quick succession with just 38 runs on board put India on the backfoot. But Tendulkar and Vijay played cautiously in their unbeaten 90-run stand for the third wicket in the final session to stabilise the innings.

In-form Sehwag began India’s chase in his typical style with a flurry of four boundaries and a mighty six. But he got out to a poor shot off Ben Hilfenhaus and was caught by Mitchell Johnson in square leg.

In the next over, Dravid fell chasingh a wide delivery of Johnson and was caught brilliantly by century-maker Marcus North at third slip.

Sachin and Vijay then played a responsible and matured innings, attacking the odd loose ball and hitting through gaps for singles and twos than boundaries.

Combining caution with aggression, the duo saw India cross the 100-mark in the 26th over, frustrating Aussie pacers. Bad light forced the umpires to call off the game in the 35th over after two balls by off-spinner Nathan Hauritz.

The highpoint of India’s innings in the post-tea session was yet another record by Tendulkar when he crossed 14,000 runs in Tests, with a cover drive to the fence off Hauritz in the 26th over.

Only Johnson and Hilfenhaus tasted success by sharing the two wickets between, while Hauritz and George drew blank.

Earlier, India fought back to wrap-up the Australian innings by claiming the remaining five wickets in the post-lunch session for 478 after a wicket-less morning session.

India skipper M.S. Dhoni stumped Aussie wicket keeper Tim Paine (58) to a turning ball of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha with the score at 405. Paine and North put up a defiant sixth-wicket partnership of 149 runs.

In his next over, Ojha had Mitchell Johnson plumb leg before the wicket for a duck to reduce Australia to 415 for seven even as North hit his first century against India and fifth in Test cricket. All his centries are on foreign soil.

Hauritz joined North to continue the onslaught and take the score past the 450-mark in 132.3 overs, with 31 extras on the board. After the duo put up 43 runs for the eighth- wicket partnership, North was caught by Shantakumaran Sreesanth who pouched a skier off Harbhajan.

A brilliant throw by Test debutant Cheteshwar Pujara from point ran out Hauritz and new comer Peter George joined Ben Hilfenhaus to put on a 29-run 10th wicket partnership before he was stumped by Dhoni of a Harbhajan quickie.

Indian spin duo Harbhajan and Ojha were the most successful bowlers taking four and three wickets.