Ponting leads Australia fightback

Battling half-centuries from Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey put Australia within striking distance of averting the follow-on in the third Border-Gavaskar Test against India in Delhi.

Ponting pieced together a gritty 87 after Hayden (83) and Katich (64) had laid the foundations with a 123-run stand for the opening wicket.



Part-time off-spinner Virender Sehwag denied Hayden and Ponting well-deserved centuries and swung some momentum India's way by removing Hussey (53) three overs from the close for his third wicket.



Australia ended the third day on 338 for four, still 275 runs behind India's first-innings score of 613 for seven declared. Michael Clarke was unbeaten on 21 alongside Shane Watson (four not out) at stumps.



Hayden survived a torrid first over from Zaheer Khan, the left-arm paceman rapping him on the helmet with his first delivery.



Zaheer, who has dismissed Hayden three times already in this series, then went past the outside edge before hitting him on the shoulder with another bouncer.



Hayden, however, weathered the storm and worked himself into a semblance of form as he built a secure platform for Australia.



The left-hander brought up his fifty with a classy cover-drive off Amit Mishra - the ninth boundary of a half-century which also included a six.



Hayden was dropped on 70 by Anil Kumble, the India skipper failing to hold on to a ferocious drive at mid-wicket and injuring himself in the process.



The physiotherapist was called out to attend to a bleeding finger, but the injury required stitches and Kumble was rushed to a hospital.



Kumble, who missed the second Test in Mohali due to injury, failed to pick up a wicket in the first Test in Bangalore and has now bowled a total of 68 overs without success in this series.



Hayden had another lucky escape when an edge off Sehwag fell just short of Rahul Dravid at first slip, but there was no denying the off-spinner as he trapped the burly left-hander plumb in front.



Katich, who was the first to go in the morning session, looked good and in a positive frame of mind.



The Western Australia left-hander used his feet nicely against the spinners and had confidently negotiated the fast bowlers as he closed in on a half-century.



That personal mark was raised when he shuffled down the track to push Kumble to mid-on for a single, but he was dismissed soon after by the leg spin of Mishra.



Katich wandered down the track in an attempt to work Mishra on the on-side, but missed the delivery completely and was bowled through the gate.



The opening stand, however, provided Australia - already 1-0 down in this four-Test series - pleasant relief and had also handed some confidence to the lower order.



Ponting, who had averaged a miserable 12.28 in India prior to this series, turned in a display of immense concentration as he kept India's bowlers at bay.



The aggressive right-handed batsman survived several close calls, but went on to put together crucial partnerships with Hayden and later Hussey.



Ponting had added 79 for the second wicket with Hayden before the opener was sent back and added 82 with Hussey for the third before he himself was dismissed.



Zaheer and new ball partner Ishant Sharma had subjected Ponting and Hussey to an intense examination in an eight-over period after tea which yielded a paltry 14 runs.



Both bowlers had got the ball to reverse swing, but Ponting survived only to throw it all away soon afterwards.



He danced down the track to Sehwag, but the delivery turned sharply, eluded the bat and rattled the stumps.



Sehwag was to strike again just three overs from close, removing Hussey with another delivery that turned significantly.



Hussey had just brought up his half-century when Sehwag got one to turn past a bat thrust forward in defence and knock back off stump.



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