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Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Saturday, 11 October 2008 12:47 UK

Johnson blows leave India adrift

FIRST TEST, Bangalore (day three, close):
India 313-8 v Australia 430

Dates: 9-13 October Start time: 0500 BST each day
Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website

By Oliver Brett

Mitchell Johnson
Australia celebrate as Johnson picks up one of his four wickets

Paceman Mitchell Johnson had a day to remember as Australia reduced India to 313-8 on an absorbing third day of the first Test, still 117 runs behind.

Queenslander Johnson, in his first Test against India and 10th in all, removed three of India's "fab four" batsmen.

Of the experienced quartet, only Rahul Dravid (51) was able to survive the threat of the 26-year-old left-armer.

India recovered late in the day through the unlikely pairing of Harbhajan Singh (54) and Zaheer Khan (35 not out).

The tailenders came together with India in serious strife at 232-7. But a combination of a 20-minute rain break and the second new ball gave the duo time to gather their thoughts, and then wreak havoc with the ball coming on to the bat nicely.

The hosts had begun the four-match series as favourites, despite not winning a Test series against the Aussies for more than four years.

They also started day three with a promising platform of 68-0, Virender Sehwag having played some attractive shots on Friday evening. But they struggled to gain any sort of a foothold on Saturday.

Perhaps too wary of occasionally unpredictable bounce - only really noticeable in the early part of the day - their footwork frequently let them down and shot selection proved another weak suit.

Only two runs had been added to the overnight total when Gautam Gambhir played down the wrong line to a straight ball from Brett Lee, umpire Asad Rauf giving the easiest lbw decision imaginable.

606: DEBATE
trevorbarker
Starved of the strike, Sehwag then lashed out at a very wide, full delivery from Johnson and nicked to Matthew Hayden at first slip.

It was now 76-2, and India had an awful lot of work to do. So it was massively dispiriting for the Saturday crowd packed into the Chinnaswamy Stadium to see neither the nation's hero Sachin Tendulkar, nor VVS Laxman, survive until lunch.

Tendulkar played two gorgeous off-side drives for four before Johnson's slower ball - pitching only about a yard in front of the popping crease - and in the channel outside off-stump, paid massive dividends for the Australians.

It looked like a ball asking to be laced to the boundary, but Tendulkar failed to appreciate its lack of pace until far too late and could only present Cameron White at cover-point with the simplest of catches.

He ended his innings a tantalising 63 runs away from Brian Lara's world record Test aggregate.

The ball which removed Laxman, who recorded a 12-ball duck, was another beauty from Johnson - pitching on middle and off and just nipping away enough to extract an outside edge from the batsman.

India lunched on 133-4, with local man Dravid steadily accumulating through deft leg glances, square cuts and square drives.

He went from 35 to 51 after the interval before falling lbw to Australia's fourth seamer, Shane Watson, perceived to be one of the less dangerous threats to India's massively experienced batsmen.

Watson was helped out by umpire Rauf, who rapidly upheld an lbw appeal despite Dravid's big stride down the wicket, the possibility of bat being involved, and a third bone of contention - that the ball might have been going over the stumps.

India suddenly required a massive partnership between Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Dhoni to get back into contention.

And the left-handed Ganguly, ideally suited by the lack of pace on offer - with the Australians unable to take advantage of his weakness against short-pitched fast bowling - began to settle into a meaningful innings.

The same could not be said of Dhoni, however, who struggled for 51 balls in which he garnered just nine runs. His dismissal to the spin of Clarke - clean bowled with his left foot in completely the wrong place - was an ugly sight for Indian fans but a joyous one for the Aussies.

Rahul Dravid
Dravid was a little unlucky to be given out lbw off Shane Watson

Harbhajan clumped a couple of early boundaries, but the tea score of 210-6 gave the tourists a clear advantage.

Johnson was hauled on for another spell soon after the interval, even though the new ball was not quite available.

Ricky Ponting's hunch paid off, as a delivery - reverse swinging into Ganguly's pads from outside off-stump - resulted in another positive decision from Rauf.

There was no doubt the ball would have hit the stumps - but it might have hit the 36-year-old's pad millimetres outside off-stump.

The Pakistani umpire, who also gave India two important decisions on day one which on another day could have gone the other way, had evened things out.

Any perceived injustices were forgotten about during the partnership between Harbhajan and Zaheer.

Initially the aggressor, Harbhajan reached his 50 by nonchalantly advancing to Stuart Clark and hitting him straight down the ground for four.

Zaheer then took over with consecutive fours off Watson, but the all-rounder stuck to his guns and finally despatched Harbhajan, edging an attempted square cut behind.

The partnership had realised 80 precious runs in 22 overs. Soon afterwards, Zaheer and Anil Kumble accepted the offer of bad light.

Having removed Tendulkar, Sehwag and VVS Laxman in a spell of 3-19 within nine overs, then added the wicket of Ganguly, Johnson enthused: "I was very nervous and to get those big names it's pretty exciting to me.

"It's tough work and the wickets are different to back home. There are a few little cracks out there that we're trying to aim for. I wouldn't say it's a total graveyard."

Dravid admitted the home side could have batted better but said: "We're behind a little bit, but not far enough behind that we can't fight back."




see also
Australia in India 2008
09 Apr 08 |  Cricket


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