BANGALORE // The stage is set today for Virender Sehwag to play one of his trademark counter-punching innings and inspire India to a 2-0 series win over Australia. Australia will resume this morning on 202 for seven - a lead of 185 runs - and India are understandably confident of executing a tricky fourth-innings run chase with Sehwag, the dashing opening batsman who has a strike rate of nearly 82, in their ranks.
"Whatever they have got [we can chase]," Pragyan Ojha, the left-arm spinner who has taken three second-innings wickets, said. "We have to be slightly sensible the way we bat. "It's turning. I will be satisfied if we get early wickets tomorrow and bowl them out. "When you play for your country you have to be ready and expect these close pressure games. This is what Test cricket is all about. You mature a lot quickly."
India will be aware that the highest target chased in Bangalore was the 194 Australia made against India in 1998. India, meanwhile, successfully chased 151 against New Zealand in 1995. But with Australia having only successfully defended a target below 200 in away Tests on four occasions and Sehwag capable of dismantling any attack in the world, India will be optimistic. Peter George, the Australia swing bowler, has a job to do with both bat and ball today.
As last man in for Australia he will be tasked with eking out as many runs as possible. The 23-year-old will then come on as a first-change bowler and be instructed to bowl with accuracy and knock over India's vaunted top order. The South Australian claimed Sachin Tendulkar as his first Test wicket yesterday but not before the Little Master had made 214. "It would have been nice to take that wicket couple of hundred runs before," George said.
"But I will take it. It felt great to get one on the board. I am not used to these conditions and crowd. "There wasn't much bounce and so we tried other ways to get wickets. We have three wickets in hand and we have runs on the board and will try to bowl them out and win the match. "There is not much regulation swing here but it is reverse swinging." It is turning, too. The Indian spinners reduced Australia to 202 for seven, with Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz facing the task of extending a slender lead this morning.
Ricky Ponting, the captain, made a defiant 72 to hold the innings together before falling to Zaheer Khan in the final session. The tourists were let down by their top order which struggled against Ojha and Harbhajan Singh. Ojha removed Shane Watson, the in-form opener, Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey, while Harbhajan accounted for Simon Katich and Marcus North. India resumed on a commanding 435 for five and Tendulkar cruised to his sixth Test double century before falling for 214.
Tendulkar, who hit two sixes and 22 fours, became debutant George's first Test victim when he dragged a delivery on to his stumps and Hauritz polished off the tail as India collapsed to 495 all out. "You have to cut down a few shots," Murali Vijay, who made a century in the first innings, warned. "They will come at us stump-to-stump line. It will not be easy, we will have to apply ourselves hard," he added yesterday.