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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Aus register 15th straight Test win as India collapse

Melbourne (IANS) India slumped to one of their biggest defeats in recent times as they lost the first Test to Australia by 337 runs, on the fourth day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here Saturday.

Chasing a target of 499 runs, India were bundled out of 161 runs in the second and failed to cross the 200-mark in the both the innings. The Australian juggernaut, meanwhile, kept rolling as Ricky Ponting's side registered their 15th consecutive Test victory and is now one short of equalling their record of 16 wins under Steve Waugh. It was also Australia's nine successive win at the MCG.

Australia declared at 351 for seven late on the third day and India, who were dismissed for 196 runs in reply to Australia's first innings of 343, needed to a record score to win the match but it was too much of asking from them and they perished under the heavy hopes and failed to last even five days.

The highest successful run-chase at the MCG was England's 332 against Australia in the 1928-29 Ashes series. Only three sides have ever successfully chased in excess of 400 runs in the fourth innings of a Test.

For all their defiance, Indians failed and barring V.V.S. Laxman (42) and Sourav Ganguly (40), none of the Indian batsmen could put up a fight and perished with a whimper. Mitchell Johnson was the top bowler with his three for 21 while Brett Lee and Brad Hogg picked up two wickets each in the second innings. Matthew Hayden was adjudged the Man of the Match for his 124 in the first innings.

India, resuming on their overnight score of six for no loss, suffered the first set-back when fast bowler Brett Lee struck with his away going delivery as opener Wasim Jaffer (15) swished at it and wicket keeper Adam Gilchrist took an easy catch. With the catch Gilchrist became Australia's most successful wicketkeeper with 396 catches and left Ian Healy one behind.

Make-shift opener Rahul Dravid (16) in the company of V.V.S Laxman (42) looked set to see the first session through. But Dravid departed in the last over before lunch after the innocuous Andrew Symonds trapped him in front of the wicket. Dravid stonewalled for two and half hours and faced 114 balls for 16 and his exit left India dangling at 56 for two at lunch.

Sachin Tendulkar (15), after a brisk 62 in the first innings, was keen to attack and drove Lee through point for four. But he was out-thought by Lee, who followed a quick bouncer with a good ball outside off stump that was too full to cut, luring Tendulkar into the shot, which he edged to Gilchrist.

India was cruising along well when Ganguly and Laxman were at the crease. Laxman worked well for his 42 but fell to the frustration of Stuart Clark's tight bowling. Laxman drove on the up straight to Michael Clarke at cover. Laxman was watchful in his 112-ball innings but was quickly onto any bad balls from left-arm spinner Brad Hogg, who dropped short more often than he would like. Laxman pulled a pair of Hogg deliveries through midwicket for boundaries and was also impressive with his straight drives.

Ganguly was also prepared to take risks and more than once cut hard in the air near gully off Clark. He kept on fighting the sweltering heat and also slumped on to the ground after running a two. He needed attention from the team physio and batted on in near 40-degree heat, but kept on losing partners at the other end. He was the ninth wicket after he was trapped leg before by Hogg.

Young guns Mahndra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh failed for the second time in the innings and couldn't rescue India. Yuvraj departed for five shortly before tea, missing a straighter ball from Hogg that would have crashed into his stumps. It was come and go situation for tail enders and India handed Australia a easy win.

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