Saturday, November 1, 2008

Clarke rides his luck

Clarke, dropped on 21, 90 and 94, rode his luck en route to 112, leaving Australia in position to clinch a draw which would give them a chance of saving the series.

Part-time off-spinner Virender Sehwag completed a five-wicket haul as Australia were eventually bowled out in the last session of the day for 577, only 36 shy of India's first-innings score of 613 for seven declared.

India then lost quick wickets at the start of their second innings and closed the day on 43 for two.

Clarke's hundred, his eighth in Test cricket, saved the day for Australia, but it had looked an unlikely feat at the start.

Clarke was handed a reprieve in just the fourth over of the day when Ishant Sharma put down a straight forward chance at long off.

The New South Wales batsman skipped down the track in an attempt to cart leg-spinner Amit Mishra over the in-field, but hit straight to Ishant, who grassed the regulation catch.

Sehwag had dismissed Shane Watson (36) quickly enough in the morning, but his attempts to add a fifth victim to his haul were twice stymied by poor fielding, Clarke being the beneficiary on both occasions.

Clarke attempted a slog-sweep off the spinner, but the delivery took the top edge and ballooned to VVS Laxman at long-off. Laxman, however, dropped what ought to have been a simple catch.

Four runs later, Clarke swept Sehwag again, this time straight to Mishra at deep square leg. Mishra advanced a touch, but failed to grasp cleanly.

Clarke then brought up his century by swatting a short ball from Sehwag through covers. Only six boundaries and one six studded his eighth Test century.

He finally holed out in the deep to Zaheer Khan, presenting Mishra his second wicket.

Clarke had constructed crucial partnerships worth 73 for the fifth wicket with Watson and 109 for the seventh with Cameron White (44).

Watson was the first to go in the morning, the all-rounder falling after putting on a show of belligerence.

He took 10 runs off three deliveries from an Ishant over and hit a total of eight boundaries, six of them coming through the third man region.

But his resistance ended when Sehwag got one to turn sharply from outside off stump beating Watson as he moved back to defend.

The ball spun enough to clip the top of leg stump.

Kumble, who missed most of the third day due to a finger injury sustained in the morning session, plunged into attack immediately upon returning to the field after 14 overs had been bowled.

He finally picked up his first wicket of the series, getting rid of Brad Haddin.

Haddin skipped down the track to hit Kumble over the top, was beaten by the flight and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had the bails whipped off in a flash.

White showed admirable diligence and patience as he kept out the Indian bowlers, before being bowled via an edge by Sehwag.

Kumble then mopped up the tail, trapping Brett Lee (eight) in front and shortly after running back to collect a catch from Mitchell Johnson (15) off his own bowling, ending Australia's innings.

India then saw opener Sehwag bowled by Lee for 16 and the decision to send in a nightwatchman backfired as Ishant capped a poor day by falling to Stuart Clark for one.

At close, Rahul Dravid, who was rapped on the forearm by a bouncer from Clark, was batting on five and with him was Gautam Gambhir on 21.

India lead the four-match series 1-0.

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