India on brink of humiliating whitewash

Aussies four wickets away from sweep

For 81 minutes, it was like watching a retro movie. Virender Sehwag flayed the Australian bowlers around, and Rahul Dravid looked at his solid best, but soon reality rushed in and those endearing images faded away.

Chasing an improbable 500 to win on a wearing track, India were reeling at 166 for six at the end of the penultimate day of the fourth Test, and they would have only the consolation of extending the match to the fifth day for the first time in this series.

Australia declared their second innings at 167 for five shortly after lunch for an overall lead 499 runs. Former skipper Ricky Ponting led the way with a fine unbeaten 60, and it was always going to be an uphill task for India to bat out a little more than four sessions to save the Test. But they began their final Test innings in Australia during this tour showing some spunk.

After the early departure of Gautam Gambhir, caught by Brad Haddin off Ryan Harris, Sehwag and Dravid added 66 runs, most of it from former’s blade, for the second wicket as India finally began to resemble the kind of team many were expecting them to be prior to the series.

Sehwag was at his brutal best, laying into all the Australian bowlers with glittering array of shots, and Peter Siddle bore the brunt of his aggression. The Delhi Dasher smashed Siddle for three fours in his opening over, and raced to fifty in just 36 balls. At the other end, Dravid was rock solid after a couple of early jitters came in the form of inside edges.

There was a positive intent during their stay at the crease, and Dravid even slog-swept offie Nathan Lyon, and their partnership was a statement from the Indians that they weren’t bogged down by the toughness of the task.

Sehwag’s incandescent stroke-play took the nature of the pitch out of the equation, but just when he was poised for something more substantial, the stand-in Indian skipper threw his wicket away. He danced down the pitch, but Lyon’s full toss dipped on him and his attempt to send the bowler out of Adelaide Oval ended in the hands of Ricky Ponting.

His dismissal sparked the feared implosion. Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, who seemed to be in a self-imposed siege for the entire length of his stay, departed in the space of 10 runs. The Bangalorean drove away from the body off Harris, and Mike Hussey held on to a simple chance at point. Tendulkar tried a defensive push against Lyon, and the ball went to Ed Cowan at short leg after taking his glove, and India were 110 for four.

However, VVS Laxman and Virat Kohli ensured that Australia wouldn’t celebrate a fourth-day victory, adding 52 runs for a determined fifth-wicket alliance. Laxman was watchful for a large part, and reminding the spectators occasionally about the artist in him with some patented shots to the ropes.

Kohli, at the other end, was in full control, and the confidence of a player who had made his first century just a day ago was very much on view in his batting. The much-needed luck seemed to come India’s way when Ponting grassed a sitter at second slip off Harris to give Laxman a reprieve when he was on 25. But the Australians soon exploited Laxman’s tendency of playing that wristy pick-up shot from the off-stump. The Hyderabadi’s flick off Lyon ended in the hands of Shaun Marsh at short mid-wicket, and Laxman’s face mirrored his disappointed heart while walking back to the hut.

Kohli’s run-out, a result of his senseless effort to save nightwatchman Ishant Sharma, off the last ball of the penultimate over was a general reflection of India’s travails, and now only the epitaph remains to be written.

SCORE BOARD

AUSTRALIA (I Innings): 604/7 decl
INDIA (I Innings): 272 all out
AUSTRALIA (II Innings, O/n: 50/3):
Warner c & b Ashwin    28
(37m, 39b, 4x4)
Cowan lbw Ashwin    10
(46m, 27b, 1x4)
Marsh lbw Zaheer    0
(5m, 4b)
Ponting (not out)    60
(146m, 96b, 5x4)
Clarke c Saha b Umesh    37
(71m, 43b, 4x4)
Hussey lbw Ishant    15
(40m, 40b, 1x4)
Haddin (not out)    11
(28m, 26b, 2x4)
Extras (LB-6)    6
Total (5 wkts decl, 46 overs)    167
Fall of wickets: 1-39 (Warner), 2-40 (Marsh), 3-40 (Cowan), 4-111 (Clarke), 5-147 (Hussey).
Bowling: Zaheer 13-1-38-1, R Ashwin 20-2-73-2, Ishant 8-0-27-1, Umesh 5-0-23-1.
INDIA (II Innings):
Gambhir c Haddin b Harris    3
(18m, 18b)
Sehwag c Ponting b Lyon    62
(81m, 53b, 12x4)
Dravid c Hussey b Harris    25
(95m, 71b, 2x4)
Tendulkar c Cowan b Lyon    13
(40m, 34b, 2x4)
Laxman c Marsh b Lyon    35
(101m, 88b, 4x4)
Kohli (run out)    22
(96m, 62b, 2x4)
Ishant (batting)    2
(12m, 4b)
Saha (batting)    0
(7m, 4b)
Extras (LB-3, W-1)    4
Total (for 6 wkts, 56 overs)    166
Fall of wickets: 1-14 (Gambhir), 2-80 (Sehwag), 3-100 (Dravid), 4-110 (Tendulkar), 5-162 (Laxman), 6-166 (Kohli).
Bowling: Harris 14-4-25-2 (w-1), Hilfenhaus 9-2-33-0, Siddle 10-3-36-0, Lyon 19-3-57-3, Hussey 2-0-3-0, Clarke 2-0-9-0.

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