Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 23 News List

Hayden and Ponting put Australia back in control

AP , MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

India's Ashish Nehra, right, edges the ball to Australia's wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist to be dismissed for a duck and end the Indian first innings during the second day of the third test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting hit centuries Saturday and combined for a 234-run partnership as Australia took control of the third cricket test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Australia was 317 for three at stumps on the second day -- 49 runs behind -- after dismissing the tourists for 366 earlier in the day.

India collapsed from 350 for four and lost six wickets for 16 runs in 49 balls -- the last three in eight balls.

It was a stunning turnaround in fortune for India after opener Virender Sehwag hit a career-best 195 to vindicate skipper Sourav Ganguly's decision to bat first.

India scored 329 for four on the opening day, but losing three wickets for 33 runs late Friday triggered the batting slump.

The visitors hit back immediately and dismissed opener Justin Langer for 14 runs.

But that's all it managed for the next four hours as Hayden (136) and Ponting, 120 not out, survived several anxious moments before putting Australia back in the match with the pacesetting stand.

"It was a very satisfying day for us all around," said Ponting, who will replace Steve Waugh as test captain after the fourth test in Sydney early next month.

"We identified the first session [today] as being one of the biggest in the series for us. Things could have gone two ways. We made it go our way with the ball, and batted well in the afternoon."

Ponting said the team was determined to do well after its defeat in Adelaide.

"We got on a roll [today] and the momentum stayed in our favor for the whole day. It's important we continue ... and give us a good chance of winning this game."

Indian vice captain Rahul Dravid said India batted poorly.

"It was a tough day," said Dravid. "But we've showed a bit of spirit and will continue to fight."

The tourists were handicapped by an injury to fast bowler Zaheer Khan, who irritated a hamstring injury that kept him out of the last test.

"He was fit before the start of the test," said Dravid. "There's a slight worry. He felt a twinge, but he kept bowling."

Hayden and Ponting -- the two Australian batsmen to score 1,000 runs in 2003 -- batted with increasing confidence against an attack that lacked conviction on a wicket that remained good for batting. Ponting, who hit a career-best 242 in Australia's four-wicket loss in Adelaide last week, played second fiddle to Hayden while the left-hander flayed the Indian bowling to reach his 17th century in his 49th test.

Hayden's fifth hundred for the year in 12 tests raised his aggregate to 1,259 runs, behind Ponting's 1,340 runs in 12 tests and West Indian Brian Lara's 1,333 runs in 10 tests.

Hayden was adjudged leg before wicket to legspinner Anil Kumble with 15 overs left in the day's play. Hayden struck a six and 17 fours off 173 balls.

Adam Gilchrist, surprisingly promoted in the order, didn't last long and skied a catch to give Kumble two wickets.

Damien Martyn, who was unbeaten on seven, will resume Sunday as Australia looks to build a big first-innings total.

Ponting was rather subdued in his contribution during the big stand, and hit only nine fours and took nearly three hours to complete his 20th century in his 74th test. He has hit 10 fours.

Ponting's six centuries is the most by a batsman for 2003, ahead of the five each by Lara and Hayden.

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