Middle-order collapse put India on back-foot (Tea Report)

November 9th, 2008 - 5:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin TendulkarNagpur, Nov 9 (IANS) After a good start by the openers in the morning session, India’s middle-order faltered as the hosts slumped to 166 for six in the second innings at tea against Australia on the penultimate day of the fourth and last Test here Sunday.After the second session’s play, India stretched its lead to 252 runs with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni unbeaten on three.

If the first session saw India’s dominance at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Stadium, the second session went to Australia, who put the hosts on the back-foot by picking up six wickets in the space of just 50 runs.

In the morning, it seemed that India were strengthening its hold on the final Test with openers Virender Sehwag (92) and Murali Vijay (41) adding 116 runs for the first-wicket. Australia, trailing 0-1 in the series, are in a must win situation and were bowled out for 355 in their first innings in reply to India’s 441.

Sehwag made a bright start, driving the fifth ball of the day for a four. Both the batsmen accumulated runs safely with few audacious strokes coming from Sehwag every now and then.

Australian bowlers kept pitching the ball up but lacked the firepower for a breakthrough on the placid track.

It was a controlled innings from Sehwag, who ducked short deliveries but punished anything that drifted down his leg. He was severe on Australian pace-spearhead Brett Lee, who had to be removed from the attack, after he conceded 24 runs from his first spell of five overs.

Lee was replaced by off-spinner Jason Krezja, who also suffered at the hands of Sehwag. The 30-year-old twice slog-swept Krejza for four, the second got him his half-century, 25 minutes before lunch.

Vijay, on the other hand, was cautious in his approach. He left the bouncers well and played some handsome strokes straight to the fielders. Vijay came heavily on Krejza , cutting the offie through point and gully for boundaries and even stepped out to whip a four over mid-on.

But the complexion of the game changed in the post-lunch session in a dramatic fashion.

A double-strike from Shane Watson and Lee removed both the openers and reduced India to 132/2. Rahul Dravid (3), who followed in next, continued his woeful form after he edged Watson to wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.

Minutes before tea, Krezja off successive deliveries removed V.V.S. Laxman (4) and Sourav Ganguly, for a golden duck in his last Test, to continue his fairytale debut.

To add more sugar to tea, Australia ran out Sachin Tendulkar (12) on the last ball of the session as India lost plenty of ground that it gained in the first session.

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