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The fourth and final test of the India - England series in Nagpur is tantalizingly poised after an exciting third day that started brilliantly for India before swinging wildly in the end in favour of England. Virat Kohli (103) and MS Dhoni (99) were the stars for the hosts, sharing 198-run partnership for the fifth wicket to rescue their side from imminent disaster. However, just when England looked down and out at the end of the day, Graeme Swann and James Anderson brought them back into contention by taking late wickets to leave India still 33 runs shy of overhauling England's score as they finished the day at 297-8.

India began Day 3 at 87-4 with skipper MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli the unbeaten overnight batsmen. James Anderson, who had a great day with the ball yesterday, opened the bowling for England with Monty Panesar attacking from the other end.

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Australia dominated the opening day of the 1st test against Sri Lanka in Hobart, posting a solid 299-4 on the back of half-centuries from the returning Phillip Hughes (86), David Warner (57) and skipper Mike Hussey (70*). Sri Lanka would be more than a little disappointed with their efforts on the day as they failed to make full use of a green pitch, with their medium pacers with the exception of Chanaka Welegedara (3-99) going wicketless.

Australia won the toss and elected to bat first, despite the green tinge on the wicket at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart. That decision threatened to backfire when they lost opener Ed Cowan for 4, caught at mid-on off Welegedara as an attempted pull went awry. 

Phillip Hughes and David Warner came together with the score at 18-1 and saw out the bulk of the first session. Warner hit 8 fours in his 89-ball effort worth 57, a slightly more restrained effort than usual. The Lankan bowlers though posed no genuine threat as they failed to bend their backs and extract anything special from the wicket.

Sri Lanka though picked up a bonus wicket against the run of play as Warner was run out on the stroke of lunch, a poor decision attempting to steal a single to Angelo Mathews at cover.

Hughes was joined at the crease by Shane Watson, batting perhaps a spot or two higher than he should considering the form of Clarke and Mike Hussey to follow. The duo though continued to build an innings, adding 86 for the third wicket before Watson fell for 30, brilliantly caught by Mahela Jayawardene in the slips.

Hughes and Clarke needed to survive a tough little period before tea and Australia went into the break at 193-3 with the former unbeaten on 82.

Sadly for Hughes, he failed to convert his start into a three digit score, falling shortly after tea to that man Welegedara once again, edging a ball back onto his stumps after adding just 4 more runs to his score.

At 198-4, the day's honours were still very much in the balance, with Sri Lanka knowing that a couple more wickets would put them firmly in the driver's seat, however, like they have all summer, Clarke and Hussey proved to be impossible to remove.

Clarke brought up his half-century in 109 balls and accelerated thereafter, finishing unbeaten on 70. Should Sri Lanka fail to remove him early tomorrow, he could well make another big one. Hussey meanwhile was a lot more cautious in his approach, striking just one boundary on his was to an unbeaten 37.

Nearly 300 runs in a day's play may be a little under par for course considering the kind of plundering form the Aussie batsmen have been off late against South Africa, but given the sluggish conditions in Hobart, it seemed a good day's work. Sri Lanka will need to up the ante on day 2 else risk finding themselves batted out of the game.

Teams:

Australia: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Michael Clarke (c), Michael Hussey, Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Matthew Wade (wk), Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon.

Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dimuth Karunaratne, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (c), Angelo Mathews, Thilan Samaraweera, Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), Tharanga Paranavitana, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Nuwan Kulasekara, Chanaka Welegedera.

Mini Scorecard:

Australia 299-4 (90 overs, 3.32rpo)

P Hughes 87 (166) C Welegedara 3-99

M Clarke 70 (136)

 

Day 2 of the Nagpur Test saw India dismissing England for 330 runs, just after lunch. Joe Root did extremely well on debut, making a solid 73. Piyush Chawla was the star for India with the ball today, ending with impressive figures of 4-69. The Indian innings though started off poorly, with Virender Sehwag falling in the very first over. India once again never recovered from that early setback, and with the exception of a half-century partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara (26) and Gautam Gambhir (37), had little to show for their efforts with the bat. India lost 3 wickets in the final session to leave them at 87-4 with two new batsmen at the crease. England clearly won the day, inflicting heavy damage to India's chances of drawing level in the series.

England started proceedings on the second day of the fourth test, resuming from their overnight score of 199-5. Both teams were aware that a good hour for either of them would put them in the driver's seat. There was barely any change in the condition of the pitch from yesterday, and once again there wasn't expected to be much turn on offer. Jadeja opened the bowling along with Ishant Sharma. Day 2 started off very sleepily, with the English batsmen making it extremely clear that they were prepared to bide their time.

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In addition to picking the squad for the fourth and final test of the series against England, the All-India Senior Selection Committee also named a rather massive 15-man squad for the 2-match T20 series to be played against the same opposition later this month in Pune and Mumbai. The two noteworthy absentees from the squad - Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag - were unavailable for selection, giving the selectors an opportunity to draft in a few necomers.

There are no real surprises in the batting unit for the T20 squad, with Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane expected to open the batting with a strong middle order in Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh to follow. Manoj Tiwary and allrounder Ravindra Jadeja will probably be warming the benches.

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zaheer_khanAfter losing back-to-back test matches at home for the first time in a decade, the All-India Selection Committee has made a few changes to their squad for the fourth and final test of their series against England. The selectors have opted to axe Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh from the 15-man squad, but have decided to stick on with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and a host of other non-performers in the team that lost the Kolkata Test earlier today.

Zaheer Khan may consider himself a tad unfortunate to have been made a scapegoat, with most pundits still believing the ageing left-arm seamer to be India's best medium pacer in this format of the game. The veteran bowler has been replaced in the squad by the uncapped Parvinder Awana, with Umesh Yadav continuing to miss out due to injury. Ishant Sharma, who made his comeback into test cricket earlier this week after an 11 month absence, failed to impress either, and it will be interesting to see if he keeps his place in the playing eleven come Nagpur.

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england_celebrate'Flat track bullies', 'Tigers at home' - the monickers for Team India have been endless as they have protected a very proud home crowd over the last couple of decades, barely losing a test series at home. However, caught deep in the midst of a downward spiral, the land that Steve Waugh once coined as 'The Final Frontier' has finally fallen, and the disappointment for India cricket fans is that they have not just been beaten, but quite comprehensively outplayed at their own game.

On Sunday morning in the mild chill of a Kolkata winter, England wrapped up the third test of this four match series by 7 wickets to nudge 2-1 clear. Revenge for India's humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Poms in England has gone far out of the window, and the emphasis has now clearly switched to somehow avoiding a series defeat at home. That will indeed be a tall order, considering that India barely won 2 sessions out of 13 in this test match, and a turnaround with the personnel currently on offer appears all too unlikely.

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Australia batsman Ricky Ponting has ended his Test career in 26th position in the ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen. Ponting achieved the number-one ranking for the first time in his career in December 2003 when he stroked 257 against India in the Boxing Day Test which helped Australia win the Test by nine wickets and the four-Test series 2-0.

The 37-year-old achieved his career-best rating of 942 in the second Ashes Test in Adelaide in December 2006 when he scored 142 and 49 in Australia’s six wickets victory. This rating put him third alongside Jack Hobbs and behind Sir Don Bradman (961) and Len Hutton (945) on the all-time list of Test-best ratings.

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