Saturday 11 October 2008 

Mitchell Johnson Keeps India On The Back Foot

India 313-8 (Harbhajan Singh 54, Dravid 51,  Johnson 4-62) v
Australia 430 (Hussey 146, Ponting 123, Zaheer Khan 5-91)
Airtel Border-Gavaskar Trophy 1st Test, day three, Bangalore

Left-arm seamer Mitchell Johnson grabbed four wickets on the third day to help Australia take control of the opening Test against India on Saturday. However, a half-century from Harbhajan Singh kept India fighting late on.

Johnson took the wickets of opener Virender Sehwag (45), Sachin Tendulkar (13) and Vangipurappu Laxman (0) to leave the hosts struggling at 133 for four at lunch after resuming on 68 without loss.

Rahul Dravid on a patient 35 and Saurav Ganguly (seven) were at the crease with India still 297 runs behind on first innings.

Centuries by skipper Ricky Ponting (123) and Michael Hussey (146) helped Australia post a commanding 430 to make a good start to the four-Test series.

Spearhead Brett Lee sent back Gautam Gambhir leg-before in the second over of the day to trigger a collapse as 26-year-old Johnson exploited edgy India's tentative strokeplay outside off stump.

India lost three wickets in the space of 30 runs as an accurate Johnson, playing in his 10th test, had explosive Sehwag driving away from his body to be caught by Matthew Hayden at lone slip after adding just two runs to his overnight 43.

Johnson troubled Tendulkar with subtle change of pace twice before having him caught at short cover by Cameron White the third time to silence the boisterous Chinnaswamy Stadium fans.

The prolific batsman began needing 77 to overtake West Indian Brian Lara's test record tally of 11,953 runs.

Dravid, although beaten a few times by Lee and Johnson outside the off-stump, batted in a steadfast manner, but India's hopes of a fightback suffered a setback when Laxman departed.

A scratchy start by the Hyderabad batsman was short-lived as he edged Johnson behind to leave India under pressure.

Michael Clarke had Mahendra Singh Dhoni bowled for nine and rain stopped play shortly after Saurav Ganguly was trapped in front by Johnson for a resolute 47.

His dismissal followed treatment for a nosebleed and left India in further trouble although a half-century stand between Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan frustrated Australia and excited the crowd when play resumed.

Harbhajan reached his fifth Test fifty by hammering Stuart Clark down the ground in dismissive fashion as both batsmen looked relatively untroubled against the second new ball.

Harbhajan was eventually dismissed for 54 when he was caught by wicket-keeper Haddin off of Watson, leaving Zaheer Khan unbeaten on 35 and Anil Kumble yet to score overnight.

© Reuters/Cricket World 2008