In­dia look to old hands to pave the way to maiden se­ries win in Oz

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

AUS­TRALIA’S cal­low bowl­ing at­tack has tan­ta­lised with the prom­ise of a brave new era, but faces its stiffest ex­am­i­na­tion against In­dia’s vet­eran bats­men in the first Test start­ing in Mel­bourne on Mon­day.

Sachin Ten­dulkar, Vangipu­rappu Lax­man and Rahul Dravid will al­most cer­tainly face Michael Clarke’s team for the last time Down Un­der in the four- Test se­ries, hav­ing come ag­o­nis­ingly close in the past to pulling off In­dia’s first se­ries win on Aus­tralian soil.

Un­like many chas­tened vis­i­tors, the pro­lific run-scor­ing trio have de­lighted in Aus­tralia’s quick and bouncy decks and rel­ish the idea of con­tin­u­ing the har­vest at the bats­man­friendly MCG with un­fin­ished busi­ness on their minds.

“Win­ning against Aus­tralia is the dream of all crick­eters, not only from In­dia but any­where in the world, be­cause when you play Aus­tralia in Aus­tralia it’s prob­a­bly one of the tough­est cricket (con­tests) a player can play,” Lax­man said to­day at the famed sta­dium.

“I think the key would be to get a big score in the first in­nings and I firmly be­lieve that at the MCG if you can get a big to­tal in the first in­nings you can put the op­po­si­tion un­der pres­sure straight away.”

In­dia, sec­ond in the Test rank­ings, have ar­guably their best shot of break­ing their duck Down Un­der in decades, com­ing against a fourthranked Aus­tralian side in flux fol­low­ing their hum­bling Ashes de­feat at home last year.

With Mitchell John­son ruled out for the se­ries and Shane Wat­son side­lined, Aus­tralia’s bowl­ing hopes rest largely on the shoul­ders of a tal­ented 21-year-old quick who has played only two Tests and an off-spin­ner who has con-

Book­ies say Sachin is ready for No 100

IN­DIAN su­per­star Sachin Ten­dulkar is favoured to bring up his 100th in­ter­na­tional cen­tury in the first Test against Aus­tralia in Mel­bourne, ac­cord­ing to one Aus­tralian book­maker. Sports­ has in­stalled the Box­ing Day Test as the most likely venue for the his­toric mile­stone at odds of 9/4.

Poised on 99 in­ter­na­tional cen­turies across Test and one-day matches, Ten­dulkar re­tired on 92 in the tourists' fi­nal day of a two-day tour match against the Chair­man's XI in Can­berra last week.

The Syd­ney Cricket Ground is the sec­ond chance favourite with pun­ters, with odds at 3/1, fol­lowed by the third Test at Perth at 5/1 and the fourth Test at Ade­laide 7/1. The prospect of Ten­dulkar – a peren­nial thorn in the side of Aus­tralia's bowlers, av­er­ag­ing 60.6 with 11 cen­turies in 31 Tests against them – com­plet­ing the se­ries with­out hit­ting his 100th cen­tury is at 12/5. – SAPA-AFP tested seven five-day matches.

Pace­man James Pat­tin­son im­pressed with two five-wicket hauls in his first two Tests against New Zealand but en­joyed the ben­e­fit of dev­il­ish pitches in Bris­bane and Ho­bart.

Nathan Lyon has given rise to hopes that Aus­tralia has found a qual­ity spin­ner to fill the gap­ing hole left by Shane Warne, but faces an acid test against In­dia’s ac­com­plished play­ers of spin.

More con­cern­ing for Aus­tralia has been the form of their bats­men, how­ever, who have per­fected the art of suf­fer­ing bat­ting col­lapses when press­ing for vic­tory.

Their 47 against South Africa in Cape Town and their dis­mal buck­ling to lose the Ho­bart Test against New Zealand prompted Aus­tralia’s cricket hon­chos to con­vene a bat­ting boot camp to get them to sharpen up be­fore the Box­ing Day match.

Shaun Marsh has been rushed back into the side to give the bat­ting line-up some spine, iron­i­cally af­ter suf­fer­ing a de­bil­i­tat­ing back in­jury, while Ed Cowan, the form player in the Sh­effield Shield, will de­but at the top of the or­der af­ter scor­ing a cen­tury dur­ing the tour match in Can­berra this week.

Aus­tralia’s tran­si­tion re­mains stuck in the mid­dle to some ex­tent, how­ever, with former cap­tain Ricky Ponting and his fel­low grey­beard Mike Hussey seem­ingly de­ter­mined to hang on like party guests ig­nor­ing their hosts’ hints to leave.

Cut down re­peat­edly by New Zealand’s hon­est, if work­man­like, bowlers, the pair will hope to make amends against In­dia’s de­pleted at­tack at the MCG, where the tourists have lost their last four Tests and have not won since 1981.

In­dia’s bowl­ing lacks the qual­ity of its bat­ting, a fact former Aus­tralian play­ers have queued up to point out this week, with Za­heer Khan com­ing back af­ter a long in­jury lay­off and Ishant Sharma rested this week with a sore an­kle.

They will not be want­ing for crowd sup­port, how­ever, with Mel­bourne’s large In­dian pop­u­la­tion likely to turn out in force to see Ten­dulkar’s bid for his 100th in­ter­na­tional cen­tury, a feat many lo­cal fans would also de­light in.

The 38- year- old “lit­tle mas­ter” has come tan­ta­lis­ingly close in re­cent Tests, each at­tempt mon­i­tored slav­ishly by his home na­tion of a bil­lion peo­ple. – Reuters



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