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Australia confident despite Tendulkar's 25th century in decider - by Kuldip Lal

MADRAS, India, March 20 (AFP) - Australian captain Steve Waugh backed his team to win the final Test against India even after Sachin Tendulkar's 25th century gave the hosts a 89-run lead on Tuesday.

Tendulkar's 126, his sixth hundred against Australia, helped the Indians recover from early shocks to pile up 480-9 by stumps on the third day.

Australia, who made 391 in their first innings, were on the back foot after Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (81) put on 169 for the fifth wicket in three hours of glorious strokeplay.

Both batsmen fell in the final session of a hot and humid day, playing tired shots off fast bowler Jason Gillespie to be caught behind by wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist.

That triggered a lower order collapse as India, 453-4 at one stage, lost five wickets towards the end to set up an enthralling contest over the last two days to break the 1-1 deadlock in the series.

"This is the most character we have shown in the last 16 Tests," said Waugh, who considers the series as the last frontier for his world-beating side.

"It was an outstanding day for us. We had two options, fight as hard as we could or let the game slip away. We did the latter.

"If India has to get 150 on the last day it will be tough for them.

"If we can restrict them to a 100-run lead and then get 250-300 we've got a good chance.

"But we've got to get the runs first. We are playing for a win, not a draw."

India broke Australia's record streak of 16 consecutive wins with a 171-run win in the second Test at Calcutta.

Tendulkar delighted a sell-out crowd of 45,000 by smashing 15 boundaries and two sixes on his favourite hunting ground which has given him four centuries in five Test appearances here.

But the 27-year-old was angry with himself for getting out when he had the Australians on the run.

"Both Rahul and me should have continued because everything was going our way," Tendulkar said.

"Losing five wickets in the last session could prove costly. A century without a win is of no use.

"But there is turn and bounce in the wicket which should help us."

Dravid, who made 180 in the second Test at Calcutta which India won to level the three-match series 1-1, joined Tendulkar to flay the Australian attack in the next two sessions.

As Tendulkar demolished the attack, Australia were left to rue a missed catch by Michael Slater when the batsman was on 82 in a total of 396-4.

Tendulkar skied Colin Miller to deep mid-wicket where Slater came under the ball, got both hands to the ball, but spilled the sitter.

Miller finished with two for 151, while spin partner Shane Warne claimed two for 140.

Tendulkar drew level with Australian captain Steve Waugh's tally of 25 Test centuries, fifth behind record-holder Sunil Gavaskar of India (34), Australian legends Don Bradman (29) and Allan Border (27) and West Indian great Gary Sobers (26).

He made 165 against England at the Chepauk here in 1993, 155 not out against Mark Taylor's Australians on their previous tour in 1998 and 136 against Pakistan the following year.

The only exception in Tendulkar's love affair with the ground was an unbeaten 52 against New Zealand in 1995 when three days were washed out.

India won two of those Tests against England and Australia, but lost to Wasim Akram's Pakistan by 12 runs.

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