McGrath's firepower and astute tactics grind India into dust

Australia 398 India 146-5
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The Independent Online

Australia have one hand upon the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after magnificent fast bowling in the third Test here broke the back of an Indian batting order weakened by injuries and unable to recapture the form seen in recent encounters between these countries. By the close yesterday, the hosts had limped to 146 for 5 and were facing a heavy defeat.

Seldom can the Australians have bowled as well as they did on this scorching afternoon. India were ground into the dust by opponents desperate to end their hoodoo on the subcontinent.

As usual, Glenn McGrath led the way with another withering contribution. Generally portrayed as a bushie with a penchant for shooting wild pigs, he is a master of his craft and one of the greatest bowlers his country has produced. Nor did he lack support. Jason Gillespie's first over was wide and expensive, but the rest were niggardly as the Australians made their opponents work for every run. Michael Kasprowicz did not take wickets but was as patient and precise as his comrades.

Astute tactics also advanced Australia's cause. Virender Sehwag took 16 runs off the second over of the innings but his adventures were cut short by the immediate application of a defensive field featuring a slip at gully, a man in between and a deep point. No sooner had Sachin Tendulkar taken guard than a man was moved across to midwicket to intercept his bread-and-butter strokes. When Rahul Dravid was facing, mid-on was pushed deeper and straighter. Neither batsman was able to collect runs in his usual way.

Resuming at 362 for 7, Australia added another 36 runs, most of them scored by Michael Clarke. Zaheer Khan removed Gillespie with an inswinger and Clarke with a lifter and ended with four wickets. McGrath played the shot of his life, a hook executed with a roll of the wrists, but was left high and dry as his partner pressed for runs. Ajit Agarkar again bowled badly on a pitch favouring taller bowlers.

After 16 runs had been taken from Gillespie's opening over, runs became as scarce as curses in a convent. Sehwag's irresolute innings ended as the cavalier flicked away from his body and was splendidly held high and in front of first slip by Adam Gilchrist. Akash Chopra defended dutifully until he opened the face of his bat and was taken at slip. Tendulkar was beaten by a combination of tight bowling, rustiness and a technical flaw that leaves him playing across straight deliveries.

Nor could V V S Laxman and Dravid construct another of their memorable partnerships. Laxman played a couple of promising strokes only to throw it all away with a clumsy cut.

Dravid held on until an edge was taken at slip as the torture continued. Not without a few alarms but showing plenty of pluck, Mohammad Kaif and Parthiv Patel survived until stumps as India tried to find a ray of hope amid the prevailing gloom.

* The New Zealand captain, Stephen Fleming, completed a double century as the Black Caps maintained their domination of Bangladesh in the second Test in Chittagong yesterday. Fleming made 202 as New Zealand declared at 545 for 3 at tea on the second day. The tourists then reduced Bangladesh 82 to 3 by the close, leaving them 463 runs behind.


Second day; Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings

(Overnight: 362 for 7)

M J Clarke c Patel b Khan 91

J N Gillespie lbw b Khan 9

M S Kasprowicz c Patel b Agarkar 0

G D McGrath not out 11

Extras (b6 lb13 w1 nb8) 28

Total (100.2 overs) 398

Fall: 1-67 2-79 3-86 4-234 5-314 6-323 7-337 8-376 9-377.

Bowling: Agarkar 23-2-99-1; Khan 26.2-6-95-4; Kumble 25-6-99-2; Kartik 20-1-57-3; Tendulkar 6-1-29-0.

INDIA - First Innings

A Chopra c Warne b Gillespie 9

V Sehwag c Gilchrist b McGrath 22

*R Dravid c Warne b McGrath 21

S R Tendulkar lbw b Gillespie 8

V V S Laxman c Clarke b Warne 13

M Kaif not out 47

ÝP A Patel not out 16

Extras (lb9 nb1) 10

Total (for 5, 77 overs) 146

Fall: 1-31 2-34 3-49 4-75 5-103.

To bat: A B Agarkar, A Kumble, M Kartik, Z Khan.

Bowling: McGrath 20-12-18-2; Gillespie 18-7-47-2; Kasprowicz 18-3-37-0; Warne 21-8-35-1.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and D R Shepherd (Eng).