Nagpur test: Aus in driver's seat

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> At stumps, Australia were at 362 for 7 with Michael Clarke (73) and Jason Gillespie (4) at the crease.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:09 IST
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Damiem Martyn slammed his second consecutive century as Australia recovered from an early scare to take control of the crucial third cricket test in Nagpur against an injury-hit India today. Martyn struck a rollicking 114 to lead an Australian fightback and steer the visitors to 362 for seven at close on the opening day which saw India claw back to some extent with three quick wickets in the last hour's play. Michael Clarke was batting on a quickfire 73 and Jason Gillespie (4) gave him company at stumps on a day which saw the Australians scoring at a brisk pace of four runs an over on what appeared to be a good batting track at the VCA stadium. Scintillating knock The 33-year-old Martyn, who hit a match-saving 104 in the Chennai Test, recorded his ninth Test century to not only pull Australia out of an uncertain 86 for three but put the team on course for a healthy first innings total. The stylish right hander found an able ally in Darren Lehmann (70) as the duo put on a breezy 148-run fourth wicket partnership to torment the Indians who had to go into the match without the services of captain Sourav Ganguly and spinner Harbhajan Singh. The hosts managed to scuttle the Australians from laying the foundation for a mammoth total by snapping up the wickets of Martyn, dangerman Adam Gilchrist (2) and Shane Warne (2) in the span of six overs late in the day with Murali Kartik doing the bulk of the damage. The mini middle order collapse began with the dismissal of Martyn who, after hoisting Kumble over long off, tried a similar shot only to top edge it for a simple catch to Ajit Agarkar at long off. Kartik, who had dismissed Darren Lehmann for his first wicket of the match before tea, then induced a return catch of Gilchrist before Shane Warne was deceived in the air and stumped. Salvage job Earlier, Martyn and Lehmann performed the salvage job by sharing a blistering century partnership and putting on 148 runs for the fourth wicket. Their association ended when Lehmann, troubled by a hamstring and needing a runner, edged a simple catch to stand-in captain Rahul Dravid at first slip off Murali Kartik. Lehmann's 70 came from 83 balls and contained 10 fours. On the offensive After Adam Gilchrist won the toss for the third time, the visitors were straightaway on the offensive with Justin Langer (44) and Matthew Hayden (23) adding 67 runs for the opening stand. But Zaheer Khan then struck twice in the space of 11 balls to remove both the opening batsmen before Kumble had Simon Katich caught at forward short leg. Martyn and Lehmann then turned the heat on the Indians as they rattled up runs at a furious pace. Martyn continued from where he left off in Chennai where he scored his first century in India. The right-hander, who had scored back to back centuries in Sri Lanka early this year, struck Kumble for three fours in an over in the afternoon and perched him in the uppermost tier after crossing the hundred mark. Lehmann was reprieved when four short of his first half ton of the tour by Aakash Chopra at gully when the left hander slashed Zaheer Khan. Martyn reached his century with a wristy shot to point boundary. It was his fourth hundred in the last eight Tests and his fifth in nine Tests in the subcontinent. Ganguly ruled out India suffered a double blow even before the first ball was bowled when captain Sourav Ganguly and off spinner Harbhajan Singh were ruled out of the match. Ganguly was down with a thigh strain while Harbhajan Singh was laid down by a stomach problem. India was also without left arm pacer Irfan Pathan who was earlier ruled out with a side strain. Sachin's comeback Batting ace Sachin Tendulkar returned to the team from a three-month layoff due to an elbow injury, as also opening batsman Akash Chopra who missed the second Test. Left arm spinner Murali Kartik and right arm seamer Ajit Agarkar came in place of Harbhajan Singh and Pathan while Yuvraj Singh made way for Chopra. Australia retained the team that played the first two Tests. The Aussies lead the four-Test series 1-0 after winning the first in Bangalore. The teams: India: Rahul Dravid (captain), Virender Sehwag, Akash Chopra, Sachin Tendulkar, V V S Laxman, Mohammad Kaif, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Ajit Agarkar, Murali Kartik, Zaheer Khan. Australia: Adam Gilchrist (captain), Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Michael Clarke, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz, Glenn McGrath. (With PTI inputs)

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