Australia on brink of series sweep

Saturday, 28 January 2012 01:12 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Australia were on the brink of a crushing series sweep after reducing India to 166 for six in their pursuit of 500 runs for an unlikely victory at the close of play on the fourth day of the fourth test on Friday.

The hosts declared at 167-5 shortly after lunch on another sweltering day at the Adelaide Oval and that tally, added to their 604-7 declared, put them 499 runs ahead of India’s first attempt of 272.

Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Virat Kohli all crumbled once again before the Australian attack to leave the tourists 333 runs behind with a full day remaining.

“The job’s not done yet,” said Australian spinner Nathan Lyon, who took 3-57. “We’ve got another four wickets to get and we’ll have to turn up tomorrow and be on our game and hopefully get these four wickets.”

Ishant Sharma, who came in as a nightwatchman and had scored two, and Wriddhiman Saha, yet to score, will resume on the final day of the match.

“I thought before the game that the wicket looked a little flat and we thought we would bat pretty well,” said Indian spinner Ravi Ashwin, who seems to have had the role of team spokesman foisted upon him.

“It’s a team game. If we have failed we have failed as a unit.”

Nothing the Indians have done so far in the series had suggested they can overhaul their target, especially as the test record for a successful fourth innings run chase is the 418 West Indies scored against Australia in Antigua in 2003.

That impression was compounded when a brilliant diving catch from Brad Haddin off the bowling of Ryan Harris triggered Gautam Gambhir’s departure for three with just 14 runs on the scoreboard.

Sehwag, replacing the banned Mahendra Singh Dhoni as skipper for this test, made deeper inroads into the target with some fine, aggressive stroke-making in his 53-ball 62.

The 33-year-old’s contribution was undermined, however, by the manner of his dismissal, playing a schoolboy shot to a Lyon full toss and holing out to Ricky Ponting at cover.

That brought Tendulkar to the wicket for his 25th attempt to secure his 100th international century in a partnership of the two most prolific test batsmen of all time with Dravid.

Dravid lasted until after tea before departing for 25 when he drove at a Harris delivery and got a thick edge to Mike Hussey at gully - at least avoiding the ignominy of having been bowled for the seventh time in eight innings.

Tendulkar had made 13 off 34 balls when what is likely to be his last test innings in Australia came to an end after he attempted to fend off a Lyon delivery only for the ball to catch his glove and pad and land in Ed Cowan’s hands at short leg.

Laxman, who has had a miserable series, had already been dropped by Ponting on 25 when he hit a Lyon delivery straight to Shaun Marsh at midwicket to end what could be his last test innings for 35.

Kohli, who had scored his first test century on Thursday, fell for 22 two overs from the end of the day when a direct hit from Ben Hilfenhaus ran him out.

“Ben Hilfenhaus’s run out was pretty special and there’s a good feeling in the dressing room right now,” Lyon added.

Resuming in the morning sun on 50-3 after losing their top order on Thursday, Australia skipper Michael Clarke and Ponting, who both hit double centuries in their first knocks, combined for 71 runs before the skipper was caught behind off Umesh Yadav for 37.

Ponting reached his 61st test half century soon afterwards with a single to the covers and Hussey angrily followed his captain back to the dressing room when he was adjudged lbw off a Sharma delivery for 15.

Ponting was 60 not out alongside Brad Haddin (11 not out) when Clarke decided the lead was big enough and waved the batsmen in just three overs after lunch.