Cricket: Tendulkar's batting puts Australia on the back foot

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SACHIN TENDULKAR'S superb unbeaten 155 inspired India as they took a commanding position against Australia after the fourth day of the first Test in Madras yesterday.

Australia struggled to 31 for 3 by the close after being set 348 to win following a second-innings declaration by the Indian captain, Mohammed Azharuddin, at 418 for 4.

The tourists endured a gruelling day in the field and then lost Michael Slater, Greg Blewett and skipper Mark Taylor during the final hour, leaving them still needing 317 to win.

If Tendulkar was the batting star - which also included half-centuries for Azharuddin, Navjot Sidhu and Rahul Dravid - then, with the ball, it was the leg-spinner Anil Kumble who shone.

Slater went first for 13, chopping a wide delivery from paceman Javagal Srinath on to his stumps before Kumble took over. Blewett, on five, was snapped up at silly point and Taylor followed soon after on 13, snicking the leg-spinner to gully off the last ball of the day.

Kumble, who claimed four victims in the first innings by fully exploiting the pitch's bounce and turn, ended with two wickets off 1.4 overs without conceding a run.

India had started the day on 100 for 1 after Australia scored 328 in their first innings, giving them a 71-run lead after the hosts had made 257.

(Fourth day; India won toss)

INDIA - First innings 257 (N S Sidhu 62, N R Mongia 58, R Dravid 52; S R Warne 4-85, G Robertson 4-72)

AUSTRALIA - First innings 328 (M Waugh 66, I Healy 90; A Kumble 4-103, V Raju 3-54).

INDIA - Second innings

(Overnight: 100 for 1)

N A Mongia lbw b Blewett 18

N S Sidhu c Ponting b Robertson 64

R Dravid c Healy b Warne 56

S R Tendulkar not out 155

*M Azharuddin c SWaugh b M Waugh 64

S C Ganguly not out 30

Extras (lb6 b18 nb7) 31

Total (for 4 dec) 418

Fall of wickets: 2-115 3-228 4-355

Bowling: Kasprowicz 14-6-42-0; Reiffel 9-1-32-0; Robertson 27-4-92-1; Warne 30-7-122-1; Blewett 10-2-35-1; M Waugh 9-0-44-1; S Waugh 8-0-27- 0.

AUSTRALIA - Second innings

M G Slater b Srinath 13

*M A Taylor c Srinath b Kumble 13

G S Blewett c Dravid b Kumble 5

P R Reiffel not out 0

Extras 0

Total (for 3) 31

Fall of wickets: 1-18 2-30 3-31.

Bowling: Srinath 6-4-9-1; Singh 2-0-9-0, Chauhan 4-2-12-0; Kumble 1.4- 1-0-2; Raju 1-0-1-0.

Umpires: S Verkataraghavan (Ind) and G Sharp (Eng).