Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s triple strike put India on their way to a memorable win against Australia in the third Test, as the visitors reached 75 for three at stumps on Day Four. Australia trail India by 16 runs with seven wickets in hand and one day to play.
India were bowled out for 499 in their first innings, following an inspired five-wicket haul from Peter Siddle. Trailing by 91 runs and 21 overs to bat in the day, the visitors had only one option if they wanted to garner any hope of coming back into this series. The instructions from the dressing room would have been to erase the deficit as soon as possible, ideally on Sunday itself.
David Warner walked out to play his natural game, not needing any instructions to hit out. However, the New South Welshman perhaps took the aggression a bit too far as he slashed out at a wide away-moving delivery from Bhuvneshwar. Warner (2) could only find the edge that was pouched gleefully by MS Dhoni and it was a wicket that Australia could have avoided.
The youngster from Uttar Pradesh took his second wicket of the innings after changing ends. Ed Cowan (8) was the victim who was trapped in front by the 23-year-old. Steven Smith then came in No 4, which meant Michael Clarke did not want to bat that evening. The Australian captain was suffering from a stiff back while fielding and had taken a couple of breaks in the middle.
Bhuvneshwar soon got his third of the evening as he bowled a ripper through Smith's defence. The ball drifted in towards the batsman and Smith understandably played for the inswinger. But the ball straightened after pitching and sent the off-stump on a hike. Australia were in trouble here, as nightwatchman Nathan Lyon walked in.
Hughes, after scoring just 27 runs in the previous five innings of the tour, including two ducks almost doubled that tally by the time the umpires called stumps. The left-hander ended the day on 53 not out and has a big task ahead of them if Australia are to save this Test.
Earlier in the day, Murali Vijay hit his third century in a 14-Test career as India took lunch at 384 for three. Vijay lost his opening partner, Shikhar Dhawan (187), early but played well to record his second consecutive ton of the tour.
Sachin Tendulkar (37) fell at the stroke of lunch, to part-timer Steven Smith no less, to help Australia to a bigger share of the spoils of the session, which saw 101 runs being scored at the loss of three wickets. However, considering the overall picture — with five sessions left, seven wickets in hand and just a 24-run deficit — not many would argue against the fact that India were in the driver's seat.
The 28-year-old Vijay was happily innocuous in his composed innings of 85 not out 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.
Known to be an immaculate timer of the ball, Vijay reached his third Test ton, all of which have come against the Australians, by prancing down the track and lofting Nathan Lyon to the wide long-on fence. It was one of the few rash strokes he played in his technically pleasing innings. By the time he took lunch on Day Four, 98 of his 142 runs had come on the leg-side. The most enjoyable of his strokes has been that prance down the strip and heave over long-on, which has fetched him three sixes and two fours.
However, the Australian quicks fought back hard in the second session to restrict India to 479 for seven at tea. 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 (153) and the dangerous Indian captain MS Dhoni (0).
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.
After tea, Siddle cleaned up the Indian tail as Virat Kohli was left stranded at 67.
Brief Scores: Australia 408 and 75/3 (Phil Hughes 53*, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 2 for 25) trail India 499 (Shikhar Dhawan 187, Murali Vijay 153; Peter Siddle 5 for 71) by 16 runs.
First Published: March 17, 2013, 4:40 pm