India emerged with the slight edge following another absorbing day of Test cricket in Melbourne. Zaheer Khan took two wickets in the morning session to help dismiss Australia for 333, while Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag all chipped in with half-centuries.
India’s first innings began uncertainly following Zaheer Khan’s mopping up operation with the second new ball, with Virender Sehwag edgy and Gautam Gambhir still well short of his best form, but the duo managed to reach 22 before Ben Hilfenhaus struck with the Aussie new ball to remove Gambhir for a tortured three from 23 balls. Sehwag, now partnered by the exemplary Rahul Dravid, continued on his merry way regardless, interspersing searing strokes with the occasional chance that was either dropped by Australia or just eluded the fielders.
By now Australia were becoming ragged as the pitch flattened out and their lack of a fifth bowler was ruthlessly exposed, but James Pattinson – who emerged as the pick of the home side’s attack once again – struck with the wicket of Sehwag (67) just before tea to leave the tourists on 99 for two at the break.
After the resumption, it was more of the same for Australia as Sachin Tendulkar took over the role of aggressor to Dravid’s more adhesive qualities and the two put on 117 for the third wicket. Captain Michael Clarke worked his way through his options, bowling Mike Hussey’s medium-pace and David Warner’s leg-spin, as well as the four main bowlers; all to no avail.
There was one brief glimmer of hope for the Aussies, when Peter Siddle splayed Dravid’s stumps, but their delight was short-lived as a quick check with third umpire Paul Reiffel revealed a no-ball.
Siddle atoned for his indiscretion a short while later, however, with the wicket of Tendulkar – again falling short of his hundredth international hundred - for a classy 73 in what was to prove the final over of the day, but Dravid remained resolute and was there at the close on 68, alongside Ishant Sharma, to see India through to stumps on 214 for three.
All of which means that India close day two with the upper hand and, if they can survive the first session tomorrow morning for the loss of no more than two wickets, then a potentially decisive lead in three figures looks on the cards.
© Cricket World 2011
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