Gambhir’s back-to-back centuries power India to 296 for three

October 29th, 2008 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin TendulkarNew Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) Gautam Gambhir’s back-to-back Test hundreds put India in a commanding 296 for three against Australia on the opening day of the third cricket Test at Feroz Shah Kotla here Wednesday.Gambhir (149 batting) sizzled at his home turf, stroking his first Test century here, following up his authoritative century in the second innings of the Mohali Test.

Gambhir had the inspiring Sachin Tendulkar (68) and V.V.S Laxman (54 batting) at the other end to carry on with his free-stroking innings. But he had fair share of the two century partnerships, 130 runs with Tendulkar for the third wicket and the unfinished 139 with Laxman for the fourth.

With the Kotla pitch already showing signs getting slower and lower as the game progresses, anything close to 500 runs will put India in an unassailable position.

Much was expected from the Australians as they trailed 1-0 in the series, but they lost the fizz after starting the day on a high. The visitors put India on the backfoot dismissing the dangerous Virender Sehwag and the solid Rahul Dravid for a mere 27 runs on the board. However, as the day progressed and the pitch eased out, India’s strokemakers made merry with the Australian attack.

Gambhir has been a pillar of India’s recent one-day successes and now he has grabbed the opportunity to be a permanent Test opening partner of Sehwag. This is his fourth Test century, the last one came at Mohali in the second Test.

The opener’s potential was never in doubt, but his mental ability to focus for long period was in question. Gambhir, though, shed that image Monday. He was so confident that he could shift gears with ease to suit the situation. Normally aggressive, he showed this day his mental toughness when he charged to hoist Shane Watson for a straightfield six to bring up his century.

Gambhir saw Sehwag and Dravid leave him early and he quickly curbed his aggression.

Brett Lee got rid of dangerous Sehwag with an incoming delivery and Dravid was enticed yet again by Mitchell Johnson (2 for 69) into an indiscreet drive to be caught at second slip by Matthew Hayden.

Lee and Stuart Clark, back after missing the second Test, bowled at a lively pace and to a good line in the first hour. Clark, who replaced Peter Siddle, was particularly impressive giving away just five runs in his first spell of seven overs.

Gambhir and Tendulkar then batted with caution before the lunch. After the early sting in the wicket died down, the duo made the Australian attack look pedesterian as runs flowed in from their bat with effortless ease.

Having relieved himself from the burden of becoming the leading scorer in Test at Mohali, Tendulkar played in his inimitable attacking style, looking good for his 40th ton before Johnson removed him in the last over before tea.

Tendulkar was in his element right from the start. He raced to his 50 in 79 balls with eight delectable boundaries, picking Johnson and innocuous leg-spinner Cameron White for special treatment.

Tendulkar came down the track to hit White through covers and then smote him over midwicket fence with disdain.

Gambhir at the other end batted with poise and concentration, waiting for the loose deliveries to put them away.

Once Tendulkar fell, Gambhir kept the momentum, as he glided and drove the ball in style and rocked back to to hit the short deliveries square.

In the post-tea session Gambhir cut loose to race to his century with two fours off Johnson and the six off Clark, his second fifty coming in just 69 balls.

Laxman joined the party, a simple caressing push off Clark to extra-cover boundary left the fielders unmoved and showed that his wristy touch is intact.

In between his tremendous strokeplay, Gambhir was engaged in verbal duels with Shane Watson and Simon Katich. When Watson tried to block Gambhir’s way while going for a run, the opener elbowed him out of his path. Then Katich came in his way to prevent him from regaining his crease at the non-striker’s end and the Delhi player flared up again. Skipper Ricky Ponting and his deputy Michael Clarke ran in to pacify Katich.

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