Indian fielding let Australia off the hook(Lead)

November 1st, 2008 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 1 (IANS) India gift-wrapped a century to Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke even as the third cricket Test meanders towards a draw on the fourth day at Feroz Shah Kotla here Saturday.Butter fingered Indian fielders dropped Clarke thrice as he gleefully marched to his eighth Test century and in the process carried Australia to 577 all out, mere 36 runs behind the hosts on the first innings.

India lost Virender Sehwag and nightwatchman Ishant Sharma in the 13 overs they had to bat in the day. Gautam Gambhir (21) and Rahul Dravid (5) took the score to 41, giving an overall lead of 79 runs.

Though draw looks a highly likely result now, India looks the side that can even lose by panicking on the final day. But then they have to blame themsleves for the situation they are in.

Skipper Anil Kumble and Sehwag gave a courageous bowling display, but were not supported by the fielders, who dropped too many chances during the day.

Kumble (3-112) returned an hour after the start of play with heavily bandaged left hand and ten stitches in his left finger. He took his first wicket of the series in Brad Haddin before lunch and then went to add two more.

Sehwag (5-104), with his first five-wicket haul in Tests, showed that he is more than a part-time off-spinner.

The track, though, looks good for batting even on the last day. There was’nt much bite for the spinners, except the occasional turn and bounce. Sehwag and Kumble though gave their best and kept up the pressure.

The signs were ominous for India right at the start of play with Ishant dropping Clarke, who was on 21 and yet to add to that score. Things would have been different for the hosts had Clarke been dismissed then as it would have allowed India to apply pressure on the lower order as they were far off the follow-on target. But it was not to be and as the day wore on, India’s catching became horrifying.

Clarke was again dropped twice in successive overs of Sehwag in the post-lunch session as he and Cameron White, who scored a tenacious 44, stitched a 106-run stand.

Double centurion V.V.S. Laxman let the ball pop out of his hands at mid-wicket when Clarke was on 91. As if it was not enough Amit Mishra dropped another dolly at square-leg boundary in Sehwag’s next over, with Australian vice-captain on 94, much to the annoyance of the good spectator turn out on a weekend.

But the dropped chances did not to demoralise Sehwag who immediately after the two dropped chances, clean bowled White, as if to make a statement to the fielders.

Clarke went on get his hundred just before tea off 219 balls in five hours and it included six fours and one six.

As shadowed lengthened, Indian shoulders dropped. But the fighter in Kumble kept him going as he summoned all his courage to get the Australian wickets. It brought back memories of Kumble playing with a bandaged jaw in West Indies after a Mervyn Dillon bouncer smashed his face and needed wiring of his injured jaw.

Other than the dropped chances, there was not much action in the field as Indian spinner tried hard to get some purchase from the wicket, which now looks easier to bat, compared to Friday when it had an encouraging turn and bounce for spinners.

Clarke (112), smiled his way to reach his century, a knock he would like to forget quickly for its quality. His 253 balls contained six fours and one six.

In the morning session, Clarke and Shane Watson (36) scored at a fast clip scoring 57 runs in the first hour.

Kumble’s return brought luck for India as Sehwag struck from the other end, removing Watson.The part-time spinner turned the ball from outside the off to clip Watson’s leg stump.

Kumble, who bowled nine overs on the trot, took a blow on the injured hand but claimed the wicket of Brad Haddin in the same over, stumped by Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

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