Pushed to the brink
Bats fire, India bury Oz under runs
Dhawan injured, uncertain for Day 5
It’ll be tough for Australia: Vijay
Stunning 64 earns Bhullar biggest payday
Kimi wins Australian F1
Pushed to the brink
Mohali, March 17
Heart in heart, the Aussies — 75/3 in 21 overs — must be knowing that they don’t stand a chance, especially when their skipper, and the one who could make or mar their prospects — Michael Clarke — still uncertain whether he will bat or not tomorrow as he’s battling with back pain.
Things would not have come to such a pass had Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/25) not fastracked things with his swing and seam movement, had Murali Vijay (153; 317b, 19x4, 3x6 ) crumbled before the daddy hundred, his third against Australia. And Virat Kohli (67*) not eager to flaunt his rock solid temperament.
Despite all things Indian (499) the Aussies, still trailing by 16 runs, can take a heart that this was their best day in business too, if execution was the benchmark.
For the first time in the series, their pacers prised out swing and seam from the wicket. Not just that, they bundled up the entire Indian team in less than two sessions with help from the spinners. Some sort of a feat for the battered Kangaroos. Notwithstanding the openers coming up cropper yet again, their No. 3 and the sheet anchor Phil Hughes scored a half-century. The same batsman who was not in the scheme of the things for this match, and his travails against spin having been well accounted after every innings he has played on this tour.
He is still not undone as yet, and with him nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (2*) is at the crease. If the batsmen do not back up their bowlers on the final day, it would be the same old story yet again.
What started as a day of possibilities for both teams ended up in the same manner. Though the scales kept tilting in the three sessions, by the end of the day it was Australia who got nearer to defeat. Peter Siddle (5/71) and Mitchell Starc (2/74) finally found a way to get rid of the batsmen. Their modus operandi simple but not straight, rather full and incoming. Peppering it with the short stuff hastened things up and got the job done. Had it not been for their incisive bowling, India would have had raced through as an enforcer much early. This however had to wait till the end of the day.
Spinners too played a part as Steve Smith outsmarted Sachin Tendulkar (37) with his dip and turn finally to get him caught at short leg. But Vijay and Kohli had some tasks to finish and they left only after it was clear that Australia could not win from here on. Vijay cashed on his timing and the offside strokeplay while Kohli was his usual self — grace and poise. His left foot not exactly on the front, neither back still clearing the ball on both sides of the wicket. Unfortunately, his partners did not last too long.
India are clearly banking on their spinners and need them, particularly R Ashwin, to come good. The sooner they do the brighter the chances of India going for the win.
Australia 1st inngs 408 India 1st innings (overnight 283/0) Vijay lbw b Starc 153 Dhawan c Cowan b Lyon 187 Pujara lbw b Siddle 1 Tendulkar c Cowan b Smith 37 Kohli not out 67 Dhoni lbw b Starc 4 Jadeja c Haddin b Siddle 8 Ashwin c Haddin b Siddle 4 Bhuvi c Haddin b Henriques 18 Ishant c Haddin b Siddle 0 Ojha b Siddle 1 Extras: 19 Total: (all out; 132.1 ov) 499 Fall of wickets: 1-289, 2-292, 3-384, 4-412, 5-416, 6-427, 7-431, 8-492, 9-493 Bowling Starc 23-5-74-2 Siddle 29.1-9-71-5 Henriques 15-1-62-1 Lyon 31-4-124-1 Doherty 24-8-87-0 Smith 10-0-63-1 Australia 2nd inngs Warner c Dhoni b Kumar 2 Cowan lbw b Kumar 8 Hughes batting 53 Smith b Kumar 5 Lyon batting 4 Extras: 3 Total: (3 wkts in 21 ov) 75 Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-35, 3-55 Bowling Bhuvneshwar 8-1-25-3 Sharma 2-0-11-0 Ashwin 7-2-25-0 Jadeja 2-1-11-0 Ojha 2-1-1-0
Australia 1st inngs 408
India 1st innings (overnight 283/0)
Vijay lbw b Starc 153
Dhawan c Cowan b Lyon 187
Pujara lbw b Siddle 1
Tendulkar c Cowan b Smith 37
Kohli not out 67
Dhoni lbw b Starc 4
Jadeja c Haddin b Siddle 8
Ashwin c Haddin b Siddle 4
Bhuvi c Haddin b Henriques 18
Ishant c Haddin b Siddle 0
Ojha b Siddle 1
Total: (all out; 132.1 ov) 499
Fall of wickets: 1-289, 2-292, 3-384, 4-412, 5-416, 6-427, 7-431, 8-492, 9-493
Australia 2nd inngs
Warner c Dhoni b Kumar 2
Cowan lbw b Kumar 8
Hughes batting 53
Smith b Kumar 5
Lyon batting 4
Total: (3 wkts in 21 ov) 75
Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-35, 3-55
Injured Clarke may not bat
Australian skipper Michael Clarke, suffering from a back problem, may not be able to bat in the second innnigs. He was unable to bat at his new No. 3 spot when Australia batted and did not come out at all today, even at No. 5
"Michael injured his back in the warm-up this morning," Australian team physio Alex Kountouris said. "He'll undergo further treatment overnight. We'll assess that and see how it settles in the morning to determine when he's able to bat.”
Bats fire, India bury Oz under runs
Mohali, March 17
Unbearable pressure has been put on it by the Indian batting; the home batsmen have run a steamroller of runs over their attack. India’s smallest first-innings total in the series has been the 499 they made in Mohali; that was preceded by totals of 572 and 50 in Chennai and 503 in Hyderabad. That’s a total of 1,624 runs in the series so far.
What’s remarkable is that 927 of those runs have been scored in merely four partnerships — that’s 57 percent of India’s runs, made by four sets of batsmen in three innings. Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Shikhar Dhawan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Bhuvnesh Kumar and Virat Kohli are the six men who’ve figured in these partnerships; Vijay and Dhoni have figured in two big, match-altering partnerships each.
India’s strength in this series has been massive partnerships.
Five of the seven batsmen who’ve figured in India’s top six in the three Tests have done exceptionally well. Sachin Tendulkar, with 138 runs in four innings at 46, has done moderately well.
The one failure among the specialists has been Virender Sehwag (27 runs in three innings); and, to a lesser extent, Ravindra Jadeja with 34 runs in three innings. Jadeja has made up, and more, with the freedom he’s given Dhoni to bat at No. 6; and with his left-arm spin, and his four dismissals of Australia’s best player of spin, captain Michael Clarke. Sehwag didn’t have a second string to his bow that could save him.
If one inverts all these stats in the last two Tests, one would realise that there’s a whiff of bad news hidden in these numbers. India lost their last eight wickets for 110 in the second Test at Hyderabad, the last eight for 115 in the third at Mohali. Clearly, they lost an opportunity to convert huge scores into gigantic ones. They failed to cash in, a failing they should be concerned with. A stronger, more experienced opposition would have made India suffer; and, come to think of it, Australia might yet make India rue not making their great start count here.
Chennai presented a positive case, though, of clawing their way back from the edge. They were in a losing position at one stage, 196/4 and 324/5 after Australia made 380. But India’s last six wickets added 376 runs in Chennai.
Overall, it’s not a bad situation to be in. India’s young players have made the runs — Vijay (336 runs), Pujara (257), Kohli (208) and Dhawan (one innings of 187) have combined well with Dhoni (272) and Tendulkar (138).
Australia have had their chances, but the big partnerships crushed them. This is what Peter Siddle, who finished with five innings here, explained today. “Obviously, giving up those big partnerships have cost us in all three Tests, so it’s been hard for us,” he said. “But we’re doing the best we can and obviously we’re improving.”
Siddle had an interesting analysis of their troubles. He said that the Indians put up crushing partnerships, but that when they ended, the Australians excelled. “Dhoni in the first match was outstanding, then the two boys with the partnership in the last match, and the same happened here again at the start,” he said. “I think once we’ve broken those big partnerships, the spinners have played an unbelievable role for us.”
“They’ve built up a lot of pressure and we’ve been able to get the wickets, whether it was them or the quicks at the other end,” Siddle added. “We’ve let down ourselves by letting that one partnership get too big on us and put too much pressure on us. But you take that out of the equation, our bowling unit has been pretty strong and we’ve built pressure from both ends, whether it was the spinners getting the wickets or the quicks at the other end.”
“I think it’s just that as an allround unit, we haven’t executed (the plans) quite as well as we would have liked coming into the series,” Siddle said, adding: “Obviously, we’re gonna have to pay for that.”
Dhawan injured, uncertain for Day 5
Mohali, March 17
Sources say doctors have advised him not to take to the field on the final day as it might aggravate the injury. Sources said, “Under the ideal conditions he should not play. The doctors have advised him not to play but it’s a debut match for him.”
Dhawan was rushed to the Fortis Hospital along with team physio Nitin Patel immediately after the day’s play came to an end in Mohali. He was attended to by doctors for nearly an hour and then discharged after the preliminary tests. Doctors however refused to comment on his medical situation. Importantly, Shikhar is a left-handed player and this is his injured hand too.
After Sikhar Dhawan’ 187-run knock, expectations have risen from him and the next match is scheduled to be played on his home ground from March 22. It is not certain whether he would be able to figure in it.
Mohali, March 17
On how India are placed: I think we are in a pretty good position at this moment considering the wicket and everything and there is nothing to be worried about.
On his taking time to settle down: It is a Test match so obviously you’ve got to take time and bat. Actually I was working just on my game before this. I wanted to stay at the wicket. The Chennai second innings [dismissal] hurt me a lot. From there I just wanted to stick in because I know I can play my shots but it is not helping me at the moment. I just wanted to do it the hard way, stick it in there and play longer.
On Shikhar Dhawan’s debut innings: It is just incredible for anybody to play like that, especially a debutant like him. The way he played and the time he had to play as many shots as he did was unbelievable. It was great fun to watch the fun from the other end. I just wanted to hang in and play my game as per whatever I am comfortable with. Shikhar was getting the score at four to five runs runs per over so there was no need for me to go for shots. I just wanted to play a little bit tighter and let him play his natural game. That is what we discussed.
On whether India would have been happy with a draw: Actually our plan was to bat was to bat as long as possible and we just wanted to set up a big lead so that we can come back into the Test match and win it hopefully. That was our thinking and hopefully… There are 90 overs left tomorrow.
All his 3 centuries against Australia: As long as I am getting runs it is fine, it doesn’t matter who’s the opponent and other stuff. — TNS
Greater Noida, March 17
Bhullar’s total of 20-under 268, after an eight-under 64 in the final round, left him sole second and three strokes behind overnight leader and India debutant Aiken.
Aiken returned a successive flawless card, a five-under 67 in the final round, to take home a whopping prize cheque of 300,000 Euros in the Euro 1.8 million event tri-sanctioned by the European Tour, the Asian Tour and the Professional Golf Tour of India.
“I was quite tense this week, I had worked on my game and corrected a few mistakes with my new coach. I was hitting straight but in the end, it seemed like a putting competition. I did not play safe on any of the holes because my caddie told me there was no point in playing safe,” Bhullar said.
Liang Wen-Chong of China took the sole third spot, two shots behind Bhullar, after returning an eventful three-under 69 in the final round.
The highlight of Wen-Chong’s outing today was a spectacular ace on the par-three seventh hole, where his tee shot rolled in smoothly. But the former Indian Open champion, who was the joint leader after the second round, could not go ahead of Bhullar.
When the 24-year-old Indian stepped on the course today, he could not have imagined for a better start to the proceedings as he sank in a hat-trick of birdies from the first hole to the third. An eagle on the fifth hole raised hopes of an unlikely charge for the title from the Kapurthala-lad.
He was pulled back by a bogey on the seventh but looked strong nonetheless being three-under at the turn. The back-nine also started with a bang for him as he gained a stroke on the 10th before striking consecutive birdies on the 14th and 15th followed by another on the 17th.
“But no one gives a damn about whether you finish second or 40th because everybody remembers only the winner,” Bhullar said with a tinge of disappointment.
Among the positives he would be taking from the tournament are, world ranking points that would bring him back inside the top-100 and the confidence to consider himself a contender for European titles. “I can smell a lot of success this year. My course management has improved,” he said.
Although brilliant, today’s round was not enough to challenge Aiken, whose sheer perseverance fetched him the title as his previous cards this week read an impressive 67, 69 and the unforgettably sensational 62 yesterday.
Aiken, in fact, recorded the season’s lowest 36-hole total and his two-day effort of 15-under 129 bettered the previous best by two strokes.
The 29-year-old was rock steady in his approach, picking up five birdies in all, three on the back-nine. He could have added another stroke to his victory margin but for a missed eagle putt on the 16th hole which he eventually birdied.
“It was by no means a walk in the park I played conservatively and played the par-fours really well,” said a relieved Aiken. — PTI
Melbourne, March 17
Finland's 2007 world champion made the most of having to make just two pit stops and was pulling away from his rivals, having just set the fastest lap time of the race, when he crossed the line 12.4 seconds clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
"It was probably one of my easiest wins," said the 'Iceman', cool as ever after a 20th career win that equalled the tally of retired double champion and compatriot Mika Hakkinen.
Sebastian Vettel, seeking to win his fourth successive world title this year, rounded out the podium in third place for Red Bull after struggling with tyre wear throughout the race. — Reuters
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