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27 Jan 2008 08:34
Australian captain Ricky Ponting equalled Sunil Gavaskar by notching up his 34th Test century on the fourth day of the fourth Test against India on Sunday.
But retiring wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist fell cheaply in what is likely to be his last Test innings as the home side went to tea at 509 for six, with Andrew Symonds on 19 and Brad Hogg on one.
The hosts trailed India’s first innings total of 526 by just 17 runs, with a draw the most likely outcome. Australia lead the series 2-1.
Having announced his retirement on Saturday, all eyes were on the record holder for Test dismissals by a wicketkeeper when he came out to bat, replacing Michael Clarke (118) with Australia at 490 for five.
He received an enormous ovation as he strode on to the Adelaide Oval, the crowd chanting “Gilly” and the Indians lining up to applaud him.
Gilchrist got off the mark from the fifth ball, with a crisp straight drive off Ishant Sharma.
The 36-year-old almost took out umpire Billy Bowden with a typically thundering straight drive for four off Irfan Pathan, but a moment later the bowler had his revenge when Gilchrist slashed a wide delivery straight to Virender Sehwag at cover.
The wicketkeeper had made just 14 from 18 balls in an all too brief glimpse of his batting genius, and again got a rousing ovation from the crowd and his opponents as he trudged off, with Sharma running up from fine leg to shake his hand before he left.
While Gilchrist left the crowd wanting more, Ponting bounced back to form with a 140.
He equalled Gavaskar’s mark, but still has a way to go catch Sachin Tendulkar, who has 39 centuries.
It ended something of a drought for the Australian skipper, who went into the match with just 122 runs at 20,33 in the series and question marks over his ability to counter Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Ponting, who batted with a runner towards the end of his innings because of a sore back, was extremely watchful early on and struggled for touch, but he was back to his best on Sunday.
He batted for 392 minutes, faced 266 deliveries and hit 10 fours, eventually playing on from the bowling of Sehwag.
Clarke, who added 210 with Ponting for the fourth wicket, scored his sixth century before being caught in slips by VVS Laxman from the bowling of exciting teenager Sharma (2-99), who was again impressive.
Australia, who have already regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, resumed at 322 for three, with the bad blood between the teams resurfacing after Saturday’s play.
Sehwag suggested on Saturday evening that the cautious nature of Australia’s batting showed they were “scared” of losing the match.
However, Australian opener Matthew Hayden then fired back by saying the Indians were bowling negatively to slow scoring and that the home side were happy to oblige, as a draw would ensure they won the series.
Tensions against surfaced just before lunch, when substitute fielder Dinesh Karthik and Clarke exchanged words after umpire Bowden turned down an appeal for a catch at the wicket off Harbhajan.
Straight after the unsuccessful appeal, Clarke infuriated the Indians by twice pulling away as Harbhajan was about to bowl.
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