Hayden ton sets up final day

Having conceded a first innings lead, Australia’s chances of equaling their own 16-consecutive-wins effort set by Steve Waugh’s famous side and taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series against India looked slim. It seemed as if Sachin Tendulkar, on his favorite ground, with a classy 154 yesterday at the SCG had ruined Aussie hopes, and in fact given India a glimmer of a hope of routing for an upset.

However, an assertive Matthew Hayden and a defiant Michael Hussey led the Australian second innings response, with an indomitable partnership that set up the final day’s play in this, the second Test between the two sides in the series of four, with one side looking to break a record, and the other trying to level the series.

At the close of play on Day 4, Australia had reached 282-4 in their second innings, after India replied yesterday with 532 to the home side’s first innings total of 463. Hayden had brought up his 29th Test century before he got out for 123, while Hussey remained unbeaten on 87. With an extra half an hour added to tomorrow’s play, with some time having been lost today due to rain, chances of a result look good. It all depends on which side is willing to taking that gamble in order to push for a win.

It was not an all rosy day for the Australia batsmen, as the scorecard may suggest. Even while Hayden and Hussey were going strong, the Indian spinners, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, were able to trouble the duo on occasions. The twosome shared all the four wickets to fall, with two of those wickets following immediately after a breakthrough that broke an established partnership.

Hayden, who went through a major portion of his innings with Ricky Ponting as his runner because of aggravated back and hamstring problems, fell to Kumble just as the day was approaching sundown. A reverse sweep went askew straight to backward square leg. The very next ball, the Indian skipper removed Michael Clarke, as he attempted a late cut, which was only edged to Rahul Dravid in the slips. Kumble might easily have had another wicket in succession, if Andrew Symonds had been adjudged LBW to a very close delivery.

Australia started the day with a confident partnership between the two openers, who together brought down the deficit from the overnight 69. Phil Jacques, when on 42, ended up being Kumble’s 100th Australian victim, when he swept straight to square leg just before lunch. Skipper Ponting followed immediately afterwards, popping a catch to silly point off Harbhajan on the fourth ball he faced. The point where Australia could have faltered having lost two quick wickets, Hayden and Hussey got together and added 160 valuable runs setting up what should be a cracker of a day tomorrow.

Australia 463 and 282-4
Matthew Hayden 123, Michael Hussey 87
Anil Kumble 3-110

India 532

Australia lead by 213 runs with six seconds innings wickets in hand.

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