The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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'Woe' for Katich, worry for India
- Australia ahead by 415 runs after Day III

Nagpur: The Indians' body language isn't evoking much hope and the Australians are keeping fingers crossed.

As the visitors close in on their historic series triumph, Team India are hoping they manage to keep the series alive till Mumbai by some stroke of luck or miracle.

Simon Katich, who survived a confident leg-before shout at nought off Zaheer Khan, finally became the 19th instance of an Australian batsman falling on 99, but not before ensuring the Test was almost beyond the hosts' grasp.

Justin Langer's painstaking ways ' he took 178 minutes and 119 balls for his 30 ' notwithstanding, Katich provided some entertainment with his fluent display after tea to make up for an otherwise dull second session.

Zaheer and Co. may have made the runs difficult to come by, but such pedestrian cricket was not expected from a side boasting to be one of the top entertainers.

Even if one wishes to raise a debate over whether the Aussie thinktank was right in not enforcing a follow-on for the second time in the series, their batsmen, despite the slow start, made sure they were ahead by 415 runs at the close.

Two things must have crossed their mind in coming to the decision. First, the ghost of Calcutta in 2001 which Adam Gilchrist will keep reminding you time and again, and the certainty of having the bowlers starting afresh in the sultry conditions.

Surely, the weight of the lead will continue to mount immense pressure on the Indian batsmen's shoulders. Added to this will be the memories of the first innings here. The pitch has loomed large in the Indian minds since they launched a hue and cry over trimming the excess grass on arrival here.

The VCA also cannot shed its responsibilities by blaming it entirely on the players. Every host country makes pitches suited to its needs and there was nothing wrong with the Indians asking for one with slow and low bounce. Just to prove a point in the BCCI's power games, the visitors were treated to an advantage on a platter at a crucial time in the series.

As the hosts crumbled, the Australians grabbed the opportunity with both hands. To survive for almost two days on this wicket will call for tremendous application and discipline ' two virtues that have eluded the Indian batsmen.

The Indian show on the field has hardly been positive during the last session. As Katich launched an attack and runs came thick and fast, there were drooping shoulders and run-of-the-mill bowling. Finding no other means, Anil Kumble and Murali Kartik often resorted to a 'negative' ' on or outside leg stump ' line.

The Aussies are sparing no effort to stoke the Indian frustration. The mind games are being played in plenty as Langer and Mohammed Kaif proved. The duo was involved in a verbal spat until Rahul Dravid got into the act. This was after a leg before appeal against Simon Katich was turned down.

Kaif from cover and Langer at the non-striker's end suddenly exchanged 'pleasantries' when Dravid came up from first slip and spoke to the batsman. The stand-in captain and Langer again had a word during the change of ends. Langer shook his head accompanied by a woeful shrug as Aleem Dar tried to calm their tempers. Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle, however, told The Telegraph that he wasn't looking to take any action as the incident 'was the follow-up of an appeal'.

Katich ' who added 14 boundaries during his 157-ball stay ' added 80 for the second wicket with Langer and was then involved in a 72-run stand with Damien Martyn.

Martyn is unbeaten on 41 and is likely to resume on the fourth morning. The visitors are aiming to set an improbable target for the Indians but exploring the safety-first tactics may make it that bit easier for India to force a draw.

'I am not going to speculate how many runs we need. We just keep batting and look at tomorrow afternoon to have a bowl at India,' was how Gillespie put it.

The time factor might come into play for Australia along with the performance of the Indian opening pair. Virender Sehwag's role will be crucial since he is the man who can instil confidence and stability in the middle-order.

Australia realise that and the role one Mr Sachin Tendulkar may play to halt their series bid.

The visitors took only 10 overs in the morning, once the second new ball was taken after the 82nd over, to polish off the Indian tail. The resistance broke through as Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie worked in their varying ways to hasten the process.

Mohammed Kaif, however, completed his second successive fifty. Gillespie returned the most successful with his eighth five-wicket haul as Australia grabbed a 213-run first innings lead.

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