India Fights Back After Martyn?s Century Email this page
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Nagpur, Oct. 26 (NNN): Australian team’s hopes of taking a grip on the third Test were slightly dented as Indian spinners led a late fightback on day one of the third Test here on Tuesday.
Damien Martyn (114) and Darren Lehmann (70) put the tourists on course for a big total with a 148-run partnership.

However, Martyn's dismissal shortly after completing his second century in a row sparked the loss of three wickets for 23 runs as Australia closed on 362-7.

Wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel wasted two chances to do further damage for India.

Martyn , the 33-year-old middle order batsman, who scored 104 in the second innings of the second Test in Chennai, held center stage at the Vidharba Cricket Association stadium on Tuesday, compiling a superb 114, after the Australians had lost the wickets of Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer and Simon Katich with only 86 runs on the board.

To their credit, the Indians claimed three quick wickets through Murali Karthik in the final session of the day to check the Aussie juggernaut.

At close, Michael Clarke was unbeaten on 73 with Jason on 4.

Earlier the home side had suffered a blow just before the game when captain Sourav Ganguly was ruled out with a thigh strain, along with ailing spinner Harbhajan Singh.

Stand-in skipper Rahul Dravid promptly lost the toss and Australia openers Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer made a solid start.

However, paceman Zaheer Khan had Hayden caught behind by Patel for 23 and Langer caught at slip by Dravid for 44.

Martyn and Lehmann steered Australia out of trouble after Simon Katich was caught by Aakash Chopra off the bowling of Anil Kumble for four to make it 86-3.

However, Lehmann's rhythm was disrupted when he picked up a hamstring injury which may keep him out of the rest of the match. He was finally caught by Dravid off Harbhajan's replacement, Murali Kartik, for 70.

Martyn continued his serene progress in tandem with Michael Clarke, and celebrated his ninth Test century with a huge six off Kumble. But the spinner had his revenge very next ball as Martyn skied another big hit into the hands of Ajit Agarkar.

Kartik then swung the balance India's way, collecting a tricky caught-and-bowled chance to dismiss Adam Gilchrist for two and having Shane Warne stumped by Patel.

However, young Patel blotted his copybook by missing a relatively simple chance to stump Jason Gillespie and dropping an edge from Clarke off Zaheer Khan.

Clarke made the most of the reprieve to end the day unbeaten on 73, with Gillespie four not out.

Morning session: (103 runs, 3 wickets, 25 overs)

The first surprise of the morning came when Rahul Dravid walked in for the toss along with Australia captain Adam Gilchrist. The change in captaincy didn't alter India's luck with the spin of the coin, as Gilchrist called correct and elected to bat.

India made three changes to side that played in the second Test in Chennai. Yuvraj Singh was replaced by Delhi's Akash Chopra, while Harbhajan Singh and Sourav Ganguly were ruled out due to injury.

India physiotherapist Andrew Leipus informed that Harbhajan was suffering from gastroenteritis while Ganguly has a strain in the upper thigh, an injury he had been carrying since the first Test in Bangalore.

The promise of an Australia-like pitch evaporated quickly as the Indian pacemen were unable to create any problems for Australia openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden. Ajit Agarkar, who got Langer out six times previously in Test cricket, had the left-hander tucking the ball at the pads occasionally but was unable to penetrate through his defences.

Langer was watchful as he played out the first over of the day by Agarkar, but was quickly into the hunt after a punch off the back foot for four. It marked the beginning of an eventful innings by him. The left-hander scored faster than his usually dominating partner and sprinkled some exquisite drives between many unsuccessful appeals by the Indian bowlers.

Hayden did not produce his beefy blows, hitting only two boundaries in his 78-minute stay at the wicket. He was out edging the ball to wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel of the bowling of Zaheer Khan. Zaheer looked sharper in his second spell, from the pavilion end, and beat the bat consistently. The left-armer teased Hayden with a couple of in-dippers before plucking his wicket for 23, in the 17th over.

Hayden's 23, including two fours, came off 39 balls.

Hayden and Langer were involved in a 67-run opening stand, the third time in the series the two had put on a half-century partnership. Thereafter Dravid packed the slip cordon for Zaheer and the bowler responded beautifully, claiming the wicket of Langer four overs and 12 runs later. Langer flashed outside off stump for a straightforward catchto Dravid at first slip.

Langer was out for 44, inclusive of eight fours, off 73 balls.

Anil Kumble then snapped the third wicket of the morning session when he had Simon Katich caught at forward short leg. Katich, who has handled the number three batting position responsibly in the absence of Ricky Ponting, was out tamely this time. He needed 14 balls for his four runs, which came off a boundary.

At lunch, Australia were 103 for 3, with Darren Lehmann and Damien Martyn batting on 11 runs each.

Post-lunch session: (142 runs, 1 wicket, 29 overs)

Lehmann went into the match knowing very well that it could be his last chance in the series what with young Michael Clarke almost cementing his place in the side and Ricky Ponting set to return for the fourth Test in Mumbai. He flashed hard over the slips and cover and led a charmed life on his way to 70. On 67, he looked in a spot of bother and Hayden came out as a runner for him.

However, it was Martyn, with a solid a 104 in the Chennai Test behind him, who impressed again with his discipline. The Western Australian batsman shrugged off his tedious approach and pierced the field on either side with ease. By the time he had completed his fifty, he had creamed India's bowlers for nine boundaries.

The middle order has given the Aussies the upper hand throughout the series, and once again they were able to keep the boat floating after a mini crisis at the top, thanks to Lehmann and Martyn. With Agarkar and left-arm spinner Murali Karthik, both playing their first match in the series, unable to create an impression, Australia were let off the hook.

Kumble completed his second spell shortly after the break, and with Zaheer too unable to provide another breakthrough, Tendulkar was brought into the attack in the 47th over. He started off with gentle seamers. His strategy of bowling round the stumps almost worked, but he spilled a difficult caught and bowled chance that came off a leading edge from Lehmann, on 68.

The batsman though was out the very next over, caught by Dravid off Karthik after adding just two runs to his total.

Lehmann and Martyn put on a partnership of 148 runs (186 balls, 129 minutes). Lehman's 70 off 83 balls was studded with ten fours.

At the tea break, Australia were 245 for 4, with Martyn on 80 and Michael Clarke on 6.

Post Tea Session: (Three Wickets, 117 runs)

After tea the Australians scored 117 runs to take their total to 362 for 7 losing three wickets – Martyn, Lehmann and Shane Warne – as the Indian spinners made some inroads into the visitors innings.

* Score Day one (stumps): Australia 362-7

The Two Teams:

India: A Chopra, V Sehwag, R Dravid (Capt), S R Tendulkar V V S Laxman, M Kaif, P A Patel (Wkt), A B Agarkar, A Kumble M Kartik, Zaheer Khan.

Australia: M L Hayden, J L Langer, S M Katich, D R Martyn D S Lehmann, M J Clarke, A C Gilchrist (Capt, Wkt), S K Warne M S Kasprowicz, J N Gillespie, G D McGrath.

*The two umpires: Aleem Dar and D R Shepherd.

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