India are off to a confident start in their chase of 133 in a minimum of 27 overs, reaching 30 for nil in seven overs at tea on Day Five of the third Test. India need another 103 runs in a minimum of 20 overs to take a 3-0 lead.
Murali Vijay hit four fluent boundaries in his 19 and showed a different side of his game in the 26 balls that he faced. His innings in Tests prior to this oozed of languid elegance, but there was a different Vijay out there today. The 28-year-old punished any loose delivery that came his way and left little room for error for the Australian bowlers.
His stand-in opening partner Cheteshwar Pujara also hit two boundaries in his 10 not out and put India on their way to a memorable win.
Earlier, India were set a 133-run target to take a 3-0 lead in the Border Gavaskar Trophy after Australia were bowled out for 223 in the second session on Day Five.
All seven Australian wickets to fall on the day were shared between Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha, who produced an inspired performance.
From 75 for three at the start of play, Australia were reduced to 179 for nine before Mitchell Starc and Xavier Doherty embarked on a gritty, frustrating last-wicket partnership.
The duo added 44 runs in 18.1 overs before Jadeja wrapped up the innings with the Australians on 223.
Earlier, 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.
Brief Scores: Australia 408 and 223 (Phil Hughes 69, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3 for 31, Ravindra Jadeja 3 for 35) lead India 499 and 30 for no loss (Murali Vijay 19*) by 102 runs.
First Published: March 18, 2013, 2:16 pm