The Indian spinners didn’t waste too much time in closing in on what would be a memorable 3-0 lead in the four-match Border Gavaskar Trophy. Australia took lunch on Day Five of the third Test at 170 for eight, after resuming their innings on 75 for three. The visitors lead India by 79 runs.
All five Australian wickets to fall on the day were shared between Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha, who produced an inspired performance by not allowing any batsman to settle in, save Phil Hughes.
Ojha dismissed nightwatchman Nathan Lyon (18) within the first 20 minutes of the day. The left-arm spinner's delivery from around the wicket pitched on middle and spun enough to find the faintest of edges off Lyon's bat, as skipper MS Dhoni snapped it up behind the sticks.
Michale Clarke, who did not come in to bat on Day Four due to a stiff back, then put aside all conjecture regarding his fitness by walking out at No 6. If there ever was a time when Australia needed Clarke the most, it was now.
However, Jadeja dismissed the Australian captain for the fifth time in this series as Australia were left reeling at 119 for five. It was a Saurashtra combination that sent Clarke back to the pavilion after scoring just 18 runs. The only consistent batsman in the Australian line-up tried to flick Jadeja's straightner off his pads, but found the inside edge that was snapped up by Cheteshwar Pujara at short leg. It was a big blow for the Aussies, who would've needed Clarke to dig in longer along with Hughes, who was now left to wage a lone battle.
However, Hughes would last only three more overs, much thanks to a dubious call from the umpire. After a defiant knock of 69, most of which was spent shuffling across the stumps to negotiate the spinners, the left-hander was undone by an erroneous decision by Aleem Dar. Ashwin's delivery was clearly missing leg-stump after pitching on middle-and-leg, but Dar upheld the appeal from the Indians. Hughes was understandably dejected as he walked back.
Jadeja then picked up his second wicket of the innings, that of Moises Henriques (2). This time, there was no element of doubt in the dismissal, which was completed by a superb diving caught-and-bowled. Jadeja's length ball on the off-stump line was sent flying to the left of the all-rounder by Henriques, where the former took a superb catch with both hands.
The Australian No 9 for the innings, Peter Siddle, then launched a counter-attack of his own on the Indian spinners. However, after hitting a four and a six, Siddle misjudged the line of Ojha's leg-spinner that went on to knock over his off-stump.
Mitchell Starc, who went agonisingly close to scoring a maiden Test century in Australia's first innings, then stuck around with the experienced Brad Haddin till lunch was called. Australia's lead read 79 as the two teams tucked in to the tikkas and naans. No prizes for guessing which team would be enjoying their meal more.
Brief Scores: Australia 408 and 170/8 (Phil Hughes 53*, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3 for 25, Ravindra Jadeja 2 for 27) lead India 499 (Shikhar Dhawan 187, Murali Vijay 153; Peter Siddle 5 for 71) by 79 runs.
First Published: March 18, 2013, 11:34 am