Australia face tough decisions

Ricky Ponting must decide how much he wants to gamble to go for test record.

    The cleaner: Matthew Hayden sweeps at the SCG
    Australia's bid for a record-equalling 16th consecutive test win hung in the balance after Anil Kumble took two quick wickets to get India back in the match.

    The India captain dismissed century-maker Matthew Hayden and Michael Clarke on consecutive balls and had a confident appeal for lbw against Andrew Symonds rejected on the hat-trick ball late on the penultimate day of the second test.

    After stuttering from 250 for two to 250 for four, Australia recovered to 282-4 at stumps on a rain-interrupted day four, a lead of 213 runs, with Mike Hussey on 87 and Symonds on 14.

    With an early start and three sessions remaining, the dilemma facing Australia captain Ricky Ponting is when to declare and what sort of target he can set India to ensure a result.

    Hayden said Australia would risk its 1-0 series lead to push for a win, with more wet weather and a deteriorating pitch being big factors to consider.

    "We'll be wanting to push for a win, no doubt about that," Hayden said.

    "We've given ourselves the best chance at this stage, so we're in there with a shot."

    Hayden said he hoped Ponting made a declaration sooner rather than later.

    "I reckon 260 might be enough. We've got too many runs now."

    It took one of the great comebacks in test cricket history by India, winning after being forced to follow-on in Calcutta, to end Australia's world record winning streak at 16 in 2001.

    Many of the stars of that India performance are playing in this Sydney Cricket Ground test.

    Ponting's gamble

    Sourav Ganguly, who was captain when India rallied for a 2-1 series win over Australia in 2001, said the gamble was Ponting's to take.

    "They're 200 ahead. Tomorrow is the last day ...," he said.

    "It's still a good wicket, there is a bit of turn, but nothing dangerous.

    "They still have to get 300, I don't know what Ricky Ponting is going to think. It'll depend on how they bat tomorrow morning. But it'll be up to him."

    The Australians, who won last week's opening test by 337 runs, lost quick wickets in two batches after resuming at 13 without loss on Saturday.

    Kumble struck first when Phil Jaques (42) played a rash pull shot to Yuvraj Singh in the outfield, ending a cautious, 85-run opening stand with Hayden.

    It was Kumble's 100th test wicket against Australia.

    His celebrations were muted compared with Harbhajan Singh's ecstatic reaction when Ponting (1) pushed a leading edge to V.V.S. Laxman at silly point.

    The feisty spinner, already facing a disciplinary hearing after the match, sprinted toward the boundary with his right index finger in the air, then rolled twice on the ground in the shadows of the pavilion after removing Ponting with his first ball to the Australian captain.

    It was the eighth time in eight tests that he's dismissed Ponting and it was a key dismissal, with Australia losing two wickets for five runs and slipping to 90-2.

    Hayden and Hussey combined to lift Australia to 250, with Hayden notching his 29th test hundred to move level with Australian great Sir Donald Bradman and South Africa's Jacques Kallis at No. 6 on the all-time list of most test centuries.

    Hayden, needing a runner in the latter part of his innings because of a back problem, grafted for 196 balls to score 123, including 12 boundaries, before he mistimed a reverse sweep against Kumble and lobbed a catch to Wasim Jaffer.

    Clarke (0) edged his first ball to Rahul Dravid at first slip and then Symonds was lucky to survive after failing to offer a shot on the next ball and getting hit high on front pad.

    Symonds scored an unbeaten 162 in the first innings to boost Australia from a precarious 134-6 to 463, before India replied with 532.

    Harbhajan charged

    Harbhajan, who has played a valuable role in the match with 63 in a 129-run eighth-wicket stand with Sachin Tendulkar, was charged with misconduct after complaints from Australia that he made racist remarks to Symonds.

    Match referee Mike Procter will hear the charges, which carry sanctions up to a four-test ban, when the match is completed Sunday.

    The Indian spin bowler denies making any racist remarks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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