Twists and turns

At the end of the fourth day’s play in the 3rd Test between Australia and India, Australia looks set to square the series at 1-1 with one Test, in Sydney, to play. It has been many years since the Sydney Test (in recent times the final Test of a series) has been “live”.

Yet this match, as with all of the matches in the series, has had it’s turning points. The first match saw Australia go from 2/262 at the end of day one to all out for 323. India then took a healthy first innings lead before Australia hit back and could conceivably have set a sizable target for India. Or perhaps not. But rain killed that.

And the second Test could have had no more dramatic turn-around (well, except one a few years ago thanks to VVS and Dravid). Australia made and enormous 566 and had India reeling at 4-85, only to have another Dravid and Laxman moment and then to lose the match (mostly through bad batting on Day 4). Which brings us to the 3rd Test with India one up in the series.

At stumps on Boxing Day, Day one, I was glad that I did not have access to a computer or the internet. If I wrote an item, it would have been morose. India having a good series is all well and good but you have to draw the line somewhere. I want Steve Waugh to go out on a winning note and was looking forward to Sydney being the series decider.

But with India 4/329 after a magnificent 195 by Sehwag, and a rather toothless Australian attack, it seemed that India could close out the match, and the series. I was searching for headlines such as “When did the Australian attack last concede greater that 400 runs in three consecutive innings”?

But Saturday was a new day and the Australians could not have hoped for a better result. The Indians were dismissed by various means for just a further 37 runs, the last six wickets going down with a clatter, for just 16 runs. A total of 366 was competitive but momentum had shifted. The Indians must have held some regret in their hearts.

Australia carefully mounted a huge reply, and with the pitch behaving like Melbourne of the eighties (up and down bounce), a very large lead was necessary. The 192 run lead came courtesy of the amazing Ponting (257) with back to back double centuries and the man mountain, Matthew Hayden (136). Next best was extras who added a well made 39. And more drama for Steve Waugh: Having received the obligatory “standing O” from the MCG crowd, he was heading slowly back to the pavilion just two balls later. But at least he was not out – just retired hurt with a giant egg on his left elbow.

It is incredible to think that Ponting has made three double centuries this year, has scored more runs than any other Australian in a calendar year and has scored exactly 499 runs in two Tests – and he may well have the chance to make that more than 500 tomorrow.

The Indians put up a good fight in their second dig and at 4/253 looked like they might set Australia a difficult target but the end came quickly again. This time the last six fell for just 33 runs. The last four scored exactly five runs for the match between them – which is lame any way you look at it.

Brad Williams was impressive in going through the tail, taking three quick wickets, bowling with pace and accuracy.

Stumps were drawn with the fall of the final wicket and Australia will start a new innings tomorrow, looking for “just” 95 runs.

Across the Tasman, NZ are having another yo-yo affair with Pakistan. Batting first, having slumped to 2/1 and then 6/171, the Kiwis somehow managed to scrape together a healthy 366. It was mostly due to Jacob Oram’s 92 and 44 from the in form Vettori. The world’s fastest bowler (by a very long way), Shoaib Akhtar, had the fine figures of 5-48.

New Zealand then fired Pakistan out for 196 and were looking pretty at the half way point. Shoaib came back for an encore and took 6/30 (match figures of 11/78) and New Zealand was all out for 103. Five of the six were bowled or lbw and the big in swinging yorkers were knocking the kiwi lads over. Looking at Brett Lee’s “new” action, and the numbers from the speed camera, one wonders if we will ever see this sort of bowling from Brett Lee again. Is he a spent fuel rod?

The Pakis are now 3/246, requiring just another 28 runs for victory in the Test and the series.

Over in South Africa, the carnage is too great to detail, save to say that the Windies are going down by an innings a plenty. Scores are WI 264 & 5/186 v SthAf 9/658. Sarwan (95*) and Chanderpaul (21*) are fighting a rearguard but it’s a lost cause.

By 14:00 EST tomorrow, the India-Australia series should be level. The battle for the Gavaskar-Border trophy will be in the balance. Then roll on Sydney!

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