Tendulkar falls just short as Johnson sparks fightback

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The Independent Online

Mitchell Johnson hastened an abrupt India collapse yesterday with his sixth five-wicket haul in Test cricket to give Australia a 23-run first-innings lead at the end of day three in the first Test in Mohali. Replying to Australia's first-innings total of 428, India were cruising merrily at 354 for four before losing six wickets in the final session of the third day to fold for 405.

India dominated the early proceedings, with four batsmen scoring half-centuries and Sachin Tendulkar (98) narrowly missing his 49th Test hundred.

Resuming on 110 for two, India lost nightwatchman Ishant Sharma (18) in the morning session. However, Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (77), who share more than 25,000 Test runs between them, steadied the innings with a 79-run stand.

Dravid played with characteristic caution until he became Doug Bollinger's second victim of the match after a sedate knock containing 12 boundaries.

"I would have liked to carry on and get a big hundred," Dravid said. "I felt nice, the way I was batting. My feet were moving well, my balance, head position, bat face. It would have been nice to make that partnership with Sachin a match-defining one."

Tendulkar and Suresh Raina (86) then stitched together a 124-run fifth wicket partnership, the highest in the Indian innings, to consolidate their position before Australia hit back after tea.

Marcus North trapped lbw Tendulkar to send a groan across the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium and Johnson dismissed Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh with successive deliveries. Middle-order batsman VVS Laxman, nursing a bad back, came out to bat after India had lost their eighth wicket.

"We missed Laxman in the middle order, that was a bit of a disappointment," Dravid said.

Raina took India past the 400-run mark but a second Test century eluded the left-hander who eventually became Johnson's fifth victim after a mature knock.