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Mishra raises India victory hopes

SECOND TEST, Mohali: India 469 & 100-0 v Australia 268 (day three, stumps)
Dates: 17-21 October Start time: 0500 BST each day
Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website

By Oliver Brett

Ishant Sharam, Mahendra Dhoni, Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh
Amit Mishra (second right) produced a terrific performance on debut

Leg-spinner Amit Mishra took 5-71 on his Test debut as India moved into a match-winning position on day three of the second Test against Australia.

Shane Watson (78) battled hard but Mishra's spin helped bowl Australia out for 268 after they resumed on 102-4.

India could have enforced the follow-on but opted to stretch their lead of 201, with Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir launching an assault late in Mohali.

India closed on 100-0, a lead of 301, with Australia firmly on the back foot.

The Aussies, frustrated in the drawn first Test, will need to produce a famous rearguard effort in their final innings to hold out for a draw.

And although the ease with which Sehwag (53) and Gambir (46) batted in the final session suggested such a task may not be beyond them, the threat of Mishra and fellow spinner Harbhajan Singh looms large over the final two days.

Mishra, playing instead of the injured regular captain Anil Kumble, outbowled the experienced off-spinner Harbhajan on Sunday.

The 25-year-old had excellent control of his googlies, top-spinners and leg-breaks and often had the Aussies groping uncertainly.

As had been the case on days one and two, India dominated in the morning session.

Michael Hussey, who resumed on 37 in a total of 102-4, was their number one target. And he was able to add just 17 further runs before falling to Ishant Sharma.

The right-arm seamer, finding an impeccable line on and just outside Hussey's off-stump, enticed a thin edge and Mahendra Dhoni did the rest.

Brad Haddin was almost bowled off his inside edge before he had scored. And he made just nine before attempting to drive Harbhajan through the covers and being bowled through the gate.

That left the score 146-6, and at lunch it was 174-7 after a similarly brief appearance at the crease from Cameron White. The big Victorian misread the flight of a quicker googly from Mishra and also had his stumps disturbed.

After such a perfect morning, it was a disappointment and a temporary setback for India when they managed to take just one Australian wicket in the afternoon session.

Luck went against them when umpire Rudi Koertzen - not for the first time in the match - made a prominent error.

The stern-faced South African declined Ishant Sharma's appeal for lbw against Watson to a ball that struck the batsman inside off-stump and would have taken out middle.

The Queenslander had 39 runs to his name at that point, a collection made up mainly from deflections down to an unguarded third man.

Shane Watson
Without Watson's 78, Australia would have been in even worse shape
But now he felt confident enough to hit Mishra for six, even though the bulk of the boundary hitting was coming from Brett Lee's drives off both seamers and spinners.

Australia's number nine was a doughty contributor to a stand which was only ended just before tea, when - the new ball having failed to swing - Dhoni switched once again to spin.

The breakthrough finally came when Lee edged Harbhajan straight to Rahul Dravid for 35, and at the interval the score was 249-8.

A possible century came into view for Watson when he pulled and drove Harbhajan for more boundaries early in the final session.

But Mishra was posing a bigger threat, and a leg-spinner that pitched on leg stump and straightened elicited a concerted appeal - and this time Koertzen did give Watson out lbw.

Peter Siddle was smoothly stumped off another classic leg-break and Mishra had his five-wicket haul.

There was no surprise that Dhoni did not enforce the follow-on, with only a four-man bowling attack at his disposal and the wicket still playing well.

Gambhir, timing his drives to perfection, and Sehwag - who clubbed the ball effectively into the gaps - then enjoyed themselves to the hilt as the shadows lengthened.

It was a tired-looking Australia side who dragged themselves off the field at the end of the day.

Mishra's return was the best for an Indian Test debutant since Narendra Hirwani's 8-61 against the West Indies in 1988, but he was modest about his achievements.

"I was not under any kind of pressure despite bowling to the number one side in the world," he said.

"I tried to play my natural game. My aim was to take a wicket off every ball. I also tried to use a lot of variation."

Watson admitted it had been India's day, but insisted his side were still in the contest.

"They bowled really well. I was a little uncomfortable against the spin of Harbhajan Singh, so I tried to play more from the crease by taking an off-stump guard," he said.

"We can still win this game if we restrict their lead to around 400-450 because the pitch is not unplayable."

see also
India leave Australia in trouble
18 Oct 08 |  Cricket
India start well against Aussies
17 Oct 08 |  Cricket
Tendulkar's career in photos
18 Jul 07 |  India
Australia in India 2008
13 Oct 08 |  Cricket

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