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Sehwag-Gambhir's poor show leads to India's downfall

India openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir's incapability to counter Australia's rampant pace attack once again led to the team's downfall after captain MS Dhoni elected to bat on Day One of the second Test match against Australia here at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) yesterday.


Virender Sehwag leaves the field after being dismissed at the SCG
yesterday. Pic/Getty Images


India's average in the first innings of overseas Tests in the last 12 months is 27.29 runs per wicket, which is the lowest among all teams -- including Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Clearly, India's batting-order is collapsing.

India were bundled out 191, the fourth lowest first innings total in a Sydney Test since 1990. Zaheer Khan took three wickets in five overs to leave the hosts in a spot of bother at 37-3, but Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke led the rescue act for Australia, taking the total to 116-3 when stumps were drawn. Australia trailed India by 75 runs going into Day Two.

Gambhir once again fell to a rising ball outside off  in just the third ball of the centenary SCG Test. Peter Siddle's first over, the eighth of the day, was perhaps the most eventful of the series. Sehwag picked up two streaky boundaries to start the over, was nearly bowled by an off-cutter, and the last ball saw Rahul Dravid struck on the shoulder. Siddle had just instilled some verve into the Test.

Dravid countered Ben Hilfenhaus' extreme swing with audacious leaves. But, he was driven into a flick shot by another Siddle off-cutter, and Ed Cowan completed a net catch at short leg. Suddenly, India were 30-2 after 10.3 overs. There were calls for Sehwag to play responsibly. He didn't oblige.

Sure, Hilfenhaus and Pattinson continued to find lateral movement, but there was no effort made by Sehwag to see off the difficult period. While batting on 23, he received a life when Ricky Ponting spilled a sitter at second slip. And yet, with minimal footwork, he kept chasing swinging balls, somehow scrapped to an unattractive 30 until Pattinson nailed him in the second ball of the 19th over as a result of his penetrative line and length. Sehwag knew he was lucky to survive 51 balls.

Standing ovation for Master
When Sachin Tendulkar walked out to bat, 35,510 stood up to applaud. There wasn't a single spectator that was seated. Tendulkar raced along to 18 off just 20 balls with four boundaries -- two through the cover region, one behind square, and a risky shot wide off gully. With VVS Laxman and Virat Kohli perishing at the other end, he curbed his aggression. In fact, there was even the half-hearted attempt at the upper cut. He struck a few boundaries off Hilfenhaus after lunch. Suddenly, he shifted gears with two upper cuts off Pattinson, starting to mean business.  And then, he played on to a wide ball off Pattinson that struck timber. There was a section of the SCG stunned in silence, the other rejoicing. Skipper MS Dhoni drove well to remain unbeaten on 57, but ran out of partners.

Later, David Warner edged one of Zaheer in the very first over, the catch snapped up by Tendulkar at first slip after it bounced off Laxman's hands. In Zaheer's next over, Shaun Marsh attempted an expansive drive only to find Laxman at second slip, giving Zaheer a hat-trick opportunity. Zaheer's hat-trick ball was countered well by Ponting, but a few overs later, Cowan was trapped leg-before to a ball that struck in line with the off stump.

Indians were pumped, the match was evenly poised. However, Ponting and Clarke counter-attacked, played some fine pull shots in their unbeaten knocks. Though Clarke was beaten outside off a few times, he put away the bad balls. Both Clarke and Ponting finished with strike rates in excess of 70 -- ominous signs for India.

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