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Australia now needs all its grit

 

1st Innings CHENNAI, March 6. Pegging India down after the openers had put on 122 runs was a creditable feat and in the evening shadows, as Mark Taylor led his team off the field, there was a spring in his gait.

Just before the opening partnership had been broken, theAustralians looked a beaten side. The pace duo were, at best steady and Robertson looked out of depth. Only Warne, able to extract some turn and bounce from a pitch that seemed strangely somnolent, needed watching.

And in mid-afternoon, he dealt the biggest blow by dismissing Sachin Tendulkar. The former India captain, with lazy elegance, drove the first he faced from Warne to the mid-off boundary. Passion overrode reason and Tendulkar hurtled out to Warne early in his innings, caught at slip. In the evening Ravi Shastri told him: "Too many runs (204 for Mumbai versus Australia), so perhaps overconfidence." Tendulkar agreed.In the same over, he went for an ambitious drive and only succeeded in edging the ball to Taylor at slip. Score : c Taylor b Warne 4(5 balls,1 x 4)

 

2nd Innings CHENNAI, March 9.

An innings of exceptional brilliance from Sachin Tendulkar has given India considerable advantage to wrap the first Test against Australia in the Pepi series at the MAC Stadium here. Tendulkar, who made his 15th Test century, remained unbeaten on 155. Tendulkar

With India's most gifted batsman translating his natural talent in to runs, it was a visual delight for another big crowd at Chepauk. The afternoon saw showers in a few parts of the city but at Chepauk it just rained runs, mostly from the punitive blade of Tendulkar. India today made 318 runs from 73 overs. Tendulkar played only 191 balls and hit four 6s and fourteen 4s.

Controlled aggression

The controlled aggression that Tendulkar displayed today and the calculated assault he launched on Australia's most dangerous bowler Shane Warne bore ample testimony to many pundits' view that the 25-year-old Indian, a 'mini' veteran, is the most talented batsman in contemporary cricket.

Decimate the Aussie attack did Tendulkar with power and precision. Tendulkar arrived in the middle after India had lost Sidhu with 15 runs added to the overnight score. Sidhu swung off- spinner Robertson to midwicket to be taken smartly by Ponting. The batsman added nine runs to his overnight 55. Another wicket would have threatened India's chances as it had a long tail.

As surprising as Azharuddin's declaration was the ease with which the pitch had behaved over the last two days. But to say that Warne did not give a try on this track would be gross injustice to the professionalism of this top class bowler.

Warne bowled from both the ends, attempted to fox the batsmen by constantly switching to over or round the wicket. Despite all the persevering methods he employed, Warne failed to match Tendulkar's wizardry.

A square cut and a cover drive off Warne saw Tendulkar get into the groove early. A drive past point for a four followed by a brace enabled Tendulkar pick his first 50 on the stroke of lunch time.

Soon after the lunch break, Warne threatened to gain dominance over the batsmen while bowling round the wicket from the pavillion end. The turn and the lift he got had to be coped with extra caution. But Tendulkar was brilliant today to win a big battle over Warne.

Using his pads as a second line of defence and making delectable strokes as only he was capable of, Tendulkar took the bull by its horns. And when Tendulkar stays at the wicket runs are bound to come thick and fast. His second six off Warne was a beauty, picking the leg break from off stump line and clearing the midwicket fence. Tendulkar's two more sixes came off Blewett (over midwicket) and a crashing drive over the long off off Robertson.

Rahul Dravid, Azharuddin and Saurav Ganguly prospered in the company of Tendulkar to swell India's run tally. Tendulkar and Dravid added 113 for the third wicket at run a minute.

So devastating was Tendulkar in this phase that of the last 50 this pair scored Dravid's share was only four. For the next wicket Tendulkar and Azharuddin were concerned in a stand of 127 in less than even time.

With Tendulkar handling the attack with contemptuous ease and runs coming freely from the other end too, Taylor went on the defensive even as Tendulkar approached his three-figure mark. The second new ball was claimed when Tendulkar was three short of his 100 .The first of the two drink breaks - the teams had decided for additional break today in view of hot and humid weather conditions - came when Tendulkar was on 98. A bouncer each by Reiffel and Kasprowicz did least to upset the composure of India's premier batsman. Tendulkar reached his century by turning Kasprowicz confidently to fine leg.

Besides those sixes and fours, Tendulkar ran any number of singles and twos with commendable agility. Fourteen runs off an over by Robertson (4, 6 and 4) and three boundaries off an over by Kasprowicz were thrilling stuff.

After a slow start Azharuddin came into his own to hit Warne for 18 runs in an over (three 4s and 6), the six bringing the Indian captain his personal 50 - his 19th. By the time Azharuddin fell to the Waugh brothers combination, Steve taking a catch at square leg, the Indians had come a long way in to the match. Saurav Ganguly, who as usual played, freely helped Tendulkar in a 63-run stand when Azharuddin halted the agony of the Aussies.

Tendulkar would have become the first Indian batsman to make a Test double century in a single day. He was going great guns and 17 overs still remained when the declaration was effected. This knock should come in the top bracket of the centuries Tendulkar has made so far. He might have faced better quality attack in the past. But for sheer range of stroke production and considering the pressure situation, this knock will be long remembered. This century was Tendulkar's third against Australia.

Score :155* (286m, 191b, 4 x 6, 14 x 4)