Steve still has a chance |
Steve Waugh's dismissal has robbed an expectant cricket nation of a fairytale finish to the Australian great's playing career.
The Sydney Cricket Ground faithful rose as one to salute the 38-year-old Test skipper's walk to the crease in Australia's first innings and to will on his every run over the ensuing 90 minutes.
Just when the 168-Test warhorse looked to have played his way in with Australia calling on all of his trademark resilience and determination, unheralded 19-year-old paceman Irfan Pathan struck.
Pathan, playing in only his second Test match, got one to leave Waugh off the pitch with the last ball of his 11th over and coax an edge that was gleefully snapped up by 18-year-old wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel.
After a moment to take it all in, the disbelieving crowd issued a collective groan at the realisation that their cricketing hero was on his way for 40.
While Waugh was at the crease, a fairytale was still in the offing given the captain's relish for fighting apparently lost causes.
But he is likely to get a second chance in this match, probably sometime on Monday as Australia try to prevent India from claiming their first-ever series win in Australia.
Century-maker Justin Langer said Waugh had reminded the team before the day's play of the value of fighting for a draw.
"One thing Tugga (Waugh) said this morning was that when he took over the captaincy five years ago, one of the areas he wanted us to improve ... was to fight out hard draws," Langer said after Sunday's play.
"We were thinking that if we could fight for a draw it would be a good result in this game."
Langer said Australia would be trying to bat for as long as possible and that there was the possibility of Waugh having to play a match-saving innings.
"It would nice for him to play one of his characteristic hero innings to put us in a position to win or fight out one of those draws he's been talking about."
Waugh also has the respect of his Indian opponents, and long-time rival Anil Kumble said the Australian captain deserved all the attention he was receiving in his farewell series.
"I think he is a great player and he deserves the kind of public response and respect that he has from the opposition and I have tremendous respect for Steve," Kumble said.
"It's a great reception that he received and the support he has had in this Test match and throughout the series has been exciting.
"It's another match and you have to get his wicket, that's the aim, and I don't think there was any emotions from our end."
Waugh has now scored 10,847 runs in 259 Test innings at 50.92 and is the second highest Test run-maker of all time behind only compatriot Allan Border (11,174).