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Krejza, Katich lead Australia's fightback

Last updated on: November 07, 2008 22:16 IST

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Jason Krejza's eight-wicket haul on debut, followed by Simon Katich's assured unbeaten half-century, helped Australia claw their way back in the fourth and final Test against India in Nagpur on Friday.

Krejza claimed magnificent figures of eight for 215 in 43.5 overs as India were dismissed for 441 in their first innings.

In reply, Australia showed tremendous intent and posted 189 for 2 in 49 overs by close of play on the second day.

Opener Katich led the way with an unbeaten 92 to help Australia recover from the early dismissals of Matthew Hayden (16) and Ricky Ponting (24).

The left-hander was involved in an unbroken stand of 115 for the third wicket with Mike Hussey, who was unbeaten on a solid 45.

Earlier, playing his final Test, Sourav Ganguly missed out on a century when he was dismissed for 85. He and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who scored a brisk 56, added 119 runs for the sixth wicket. However, both fell in the space of three deliveries before the lower order capitulated to Krejza, who claimed all the five wickets to fall on the second day.

India lead the four-match series 1-0 after the 320-run victory in the second Test in Mohali.

Morning session: (93 runs, 26 overs)

Resuming on 311 for five, the two Indian batsmen looked quite comfortable in the morning session, both Dhoni and Ganguly milking the bowling at will.

Dhoni was in his usual, aggressive mode and did not let go any opportunity to score some quick runs. He flicked Brett Lee powerfully through square leg for the first boundary of the day in the 95th over of the innings.

Ganguly then registered his first boundary of the second day when he cut Johnson through point to progress to 39. In his farewell game the left-hander looked quite relaxed as he then stepped out and lofted Krejza straight down the ground for his first six of the innings.

As was the case on day one, Krejza was again subject to some rough treatment from the Indian batsmen. Dhoni even brought out the reverse sweep twice against the spinner, in the 99th over, the second one going to the point boundary.

Ganguly made his final Test special with a fluent half-century, his 35th overall, which included four boundaries and a six in his 95-ball knock. Krejza tried to bowl a straighter line to him but the left-hander swept him fine for two more boundaries to move to 71. He then cut the off-spinner through point in the final over before the lunch break to
bring up India's 400.

At lunch on the second day, India were comfortably placed at 404 for 5 in 113 overs.

Ganguly looks set to end his international career with a century, having scored 80 not out, inclusive of eight boundaries and a six in 142 deliveries.

Dhoni was not out on 43 from 85 deliveries, inclusive of two boundaries, having added 101 runs for the sixth wicket.

Krejza's misery was compounded as he went for more runs on the second day for figures of three for 195 in 38 overs. Ganguly continued the assault, amassing 53 runs from 63 deliveries off Krejza's gentle off-spinners that hardly threatened.

Post-lunch session: (80 runs, 6 wickets, 21.5 overs)

Dhoni started off positively, smashing two consecutive boundaries off Johnson in the first over after lunch to bring up his half-century. However, he could not hurt Australia more as he became Krejza's fourth victim of the innings.

Trying to play a fine paddle sweep, he missed the ball, which crashed into his leg stump. The Indian captain made 56 from 97 deliveries, inclusive of four boundaries, and added 119 runs for the sixth wicket with Ganguly.

Two deliveries later, Krejza made it a day to remember when he completed a five-wicket haul with the wicket of Ganguly. The left-hand batsman edged one to first slip after a brilliant knock of 85. He hit eight boundaries and a six in his 153-ball knock and walked back to a standing ovation from the sparse gathering in the new stadium in what could possibly his last Test innings.

But the Indian batsmen's affection with Krejza continued. Even Harbhajan Singh wanted a piece of the pie as he smashed two consecutive boundaries off the debutant despite the fact that he had already claimed five wickets.

Krejza continued his wicket-taking spree when he bowled Zaheer Khan (1) and Amit Mishra (0) through the gate with successive deliveries in his 43rd over to reduce India to 437 for 9.

The 24-year-old then completed a remarkable debut when he bagged his eighth wicket, that of Ishant Sharma, caught at short leg for 0. Harbhajan was left stranded on 18 as India were dismissed out for 441 in 124.5 overs, an hour after lunch.

India's lower order collapsed tamely as they lost their last five wickets for the addition of just 19 runs in the space of eight overs. And it was all because of Krejza.

Surprisingly Krejza, whose father is a footballer from Czechoslovakia and mother from Poland, was the second choice spinner for Australia in this series, but he showed how wrong it was to leave him out.

Krejza finished with excellent figures of 8 for 215 in 43.5 overs and despite being taken to the cleaners by every Indian batsman, stuck to his task and claimed regular wickets.

Johnson (1 for 84) and Watson (1 for 42) were the other wicket-takers, while Brett Lee's horror tour continued as he bowled only 16 overs, including four on the second day.

It remains to be seen whether the Australian batsmen can make a match out of i; if they hope to level the series 1-1 they need to come out all guns firing and put up a big first innings score.

But on a pitch that is giving a fair amount of assistance to the spinners their task won't be easy.

(Australia innings)

Simon Katich started off with two boundaries in the opening over of the innings by Zaheer Khan. Interestingly, India opted to use off-spinner Harbhajan Singh at the other end, an experiment that was used for three overs before he gave way to Ishant Sharma.

With nothing in it for the bowlers, India got a lucky break when debutant Murali Vijay got Matthew Hayden run out for 16 with a direct hit from mid-on.

At tea, Australia were 43 for 1 in 11 overs, with Katich unbeaten on 18 and Ricky Ponting not out on 7.

Australia's first major test will come after the tea break when the ball is a bit old and the spinners operate from both ends on a pitch affording some help to the slower bowlers.

Post-tea session: (146 runs, 1 wicket, 38 overs)

Ponting made known his intentions straight after tea when he slog-swept Harbhajan over midwicket for a boundary. Katich also dealt the offie some punishment, thumping him for consecutive boundaries through the off-side in the 16th over.

Ponting then repeated the dose, smashing consecutive boundaries off Ishant as Australia raced 74 for 1 in 17 overs.

Harbhajan, however, had the final laugh when he bowled the Aussies captain for 24. Ponting committed the same mistake as the Indians did against Krejza, trying to hit against the spin on a turning track. It gave Harbhajan his 300th wicket in Test cricket, and interestingly 200 of those have come on Indian soil.

Katich, meanwhile, continued his good form with yet another half-century, his third of the series. The Aussie opener completed his fifty off 55 deliveries, including seven boundaries as Australia crossed the 100-run mark in the 25th over.

Mike Hussey seemed in no hurry and continued with his routine job of holding one end up as Katich scored freely at the other.

Both the left-handers looked so comfortable that it was hard to believe that this was the same pitch one which an Australian debutant had taken eight wickets in an innings. But India had to be patient, because the pitch with its even and hard bounce was still good for batting, and forcing the batsmen into a mistake was important.

Hussey brought up the 100-run partnership for the third wicket with a cracking boundary through the leg-side off part-timer Tendulkar in the 45th over.

It kept getting better for Australia as they cantered at a fair pace to reach a healthy 179 for two after 45 overs. With a scoring rate of nearly four per over, the visitors wanted to ensure that they had a chance in the contest if they could bat well on the third day.

Australia ended the second day strongly, reaching 189 for two in 49 overs at stumps.

Katich's 120-ball knock of 92 included eight boundaries, while Hussey hit four boundaries off 108 deliveries to reach 45 not out.

For India, Harbhajan toiled but found it difficult in the last hour against the two left-handers for figures of 1 for 57 in 16 overs. Amit Mishra also failed to trouble the batsmen enough and went wicketless in his nine overs.

India will be hoping to claim a few early wickets on the third day and snuff out any possible chance of Australia getting to a big score.

Our Correspondent