India fightback slows Australia’s victory bid

Bangalore, October 12:

Australian captain Ricky Ponting faced a tricky decision on a likely target for India after the hosts clawed their way back into the first cricket Test on Sunday.

The tourists will start the final day’s play with an overall lead of 263 with five wickets in hand on a deteriorating wicket that is making batting difficult.

Ponting, whose team closed the fourth day at 193-5 in their second knock, has three sessions left in the match to force a result by giving his bowlers enough time to dismiss India again. India not only prolonged their first innings to 360 to narrow Australia’s lead to 70 runs, but slowed their rivals’ bid for quick runs by grabbing wickets at regular intervals. Zaheer Khan led India’s fightback with an unbeaten 57, his team’s top score, and then removed the dangerous Matthew Hayden for 13 when the Australians batted a second time.

Hayden was given out leg-before to Zaheer by Pakistani umpire Asad Rauf for the second time in the match, but TV replays indicated the ball would have missed the leg-stump. Ponting, who made a century in the first innings, was snapped up low at short mid-wicket by Venkatsai Laxman off seamer Ishant Sharma for 17.

Opener Simon Katich (34) put on 50 for the third wicket with Michael Hussey when he was caught by Laxman off Harbhajan Singh to make the tourists 99-3. Australia were just 198 ahead when the fifth wicket fell, Hussey bowled by a Harbhajan ‘doosra’. Shane Watson (32) and Brad Haddin (28), however, kept the tourists on target by adding 65 for the unbroken sixth wicket.

India were hampered in the field by a shoulder injury to captain and spin spearhead Anil Kumble, who was unable to bowl till the 54th over of the innings. India, who started the day at 313-8, batted till 30 minutes before lunch, before last man Sharma was bowled by part-time spinner Michael Clarke for six.

Zaheer had on Saturday put on 80 runs for the eighth wicket with Harbhajan, who launched the home team’s late charge with a stroke-filled 54. India’s last five wickets added a valuable 205 runs after the top five had been dismissed with just 155 on the board. Zaheer batted for three hours to compile his second Test fifty with the help of seven fours. Shane Watson finished with 3-45, while Mitchell Johnson failed to add to Saturday’s tally of four wickets.