The Australian quicks fought back hard in the second session of Day Four of the Mohali Test to restrict India to 479 for seven at tea. India’s lead stands at 71 runs and they have three wickets in hand.
When Murali Vijay hit his third Test hundred in the morning session and took India to 384 for two with an over to go before lunch, India were running away with the game.
As it turned out, the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar (37) at the stroke of lunch, taken by part-timer Steven Smith no less, was the turning point in the innings as India lost five wickets for just 53 runs.
Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle sparked the turnaround for the visitors soon after lunch, starting with the wicket of Vijay. Starc struck twice in an over with the second new ball to dismiss Vijay and the dangerous Indian captain MS Dhoni (0).
This was after Vijay notched up his second score of 150-plus in the series with a sneaky late dab past the slips off part-timer Steven Smith. However, in the very next over, the Chennai batsman misjudged the line of an incoming delivery from Mitchell Starc and was trapped in front. Vijay fell for 153.
MS Dhoni (0) was then to fall in the same over after charging down towards the left-armer trying to negate the inswing and flick him off the legs. But the Indian captain missed as the ball crashed into his feet plumb in front.
The industrious Peter Siddle then strode in and said 'It's my turn now'. The 28-year-old has bent his back throughout this series and has been the most hard-working member of the Australian pace attack. Even on a flat Mohali track, Siddle refused to budge from his almost clockwork-like line and length, and dismissed Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in similar fashion and on a similar score (4).
Siddle found the edge of the Indian Nos 6 and 7 and all of a sudden, India had gone from 384 for two to 431 for seven. Virat Kohli, watching aghast from the ohter end, had watched four of his teammates come in and walk out in quick succession after Tendulkar's dismissal — a scene reminiscent of the nineties when the LIttle Master used to be a one-man army.
Kohli needed someone from the lower order to stick around and help him put as many runs on the board. Young Bhuvneshwar Kumar, in just his third Test, stood up to the task. The duo built a calm, watchful partnership as the Australian bowlers probed further. Eventually, in the last over before tea, Kohli flicked Smith off the legs for a single to bring up a well-deserved fifty.
India took tea 71 runs ahead of Australia, but had lost valuable time in the match as their run-rate trickled below the four runs per over mark. On Day Three, it was well above five. The match seems to be heading towards a draw, unless Kohli and his young partner decide to do a Harbhajan and go for the big hits and put Australia in to bat with a lead of 150.
Earlier, in the first session, Shikhar Dhawan fell 13 runs short of a landmark double hundred in his first ever match. Ed Cowan, at silly point, gobbled up an edge off the bowling of Nathan Lyon to dismiss the new Delhi dasher, who fell after adding just two runs to his overnight score of 185.
Four overs later, Australia’s morning got even better, with a little help from umpire Aleem Dar, as a diligent Siddle earned a leg-before decision that, replays later showed, had taken the inside edge of Cheteshwar Pujara’s (1) bat. The Saurashtra batsman, who had scored a match-winning double ton in the second Test at Hyderabad, looked understandably disappointed as he walked back. Australia would say they deserved a bit of luck after an unproductive Day Three with the ball.
This brought the 197-Test veteran Tendulkar out to the middle, among raucous applause, to join someone who has played 183 matches lesser than him. Anyone in place of Vijay, whose gritty knock of 83 not out on Saturday was completely overshadowed by Dhawan’s pyrotechnics, would have felt, “What do I need to do to get noticed here?” But not Vijay.
The 28-year-old Chennai boy was happily innocuous in his composed innings on Saturday, taking the backseat to Dhawan and industriously going about his knock. On Sunday, with a bigger crowd in attendance, Vijay felt no urge to show his own brand of attacking batsmanship, and readily built a watchful partnership with the Little Master, before the latter was dismissed in the last over before lunch.
Brief Scores: Australia 408 (Mitchell Starc 99, Steven Smith 92, Ed Cowan 86, David Warner 71; Ishant Sharma 3 for 72, Ravindra Jadeja 3 for 77) trail India 479 for 7 (Shikhar Dhawan 187, Murali Vijay 153; Peter Siddle 3 for 67) by 71 runs.
First Published: March 17, 2013, 2:15 pm