India and Australia shared the spoils for the first session of Day One of the fourth and final Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Australia were 94 for two at lunch after winning the toss and electing to bat first on a pitch that is crumbling by the over.
Even though the Kotla pitch is conducive to spin bowling with its constantly increasing cracks, pacer Ishant Sharma got both wickets for the hosts. In only the second over of the day, Ishant got David Warner to reach out to a widish delivery and found a thick edge that carried to Virat Kohli at second slip. It wasn’t the start Australia would have wanted, especially after electing to bat first.
Phil Hughes, in at No 3, was coming off a spot-saving half-century in Mohali. The left-hander had just 27 runs to his name, including two ducks, in the five innings that preceded Australia's second outing with the bat in Mohali, and was under pressure to perform. He went on to score a handy 67, and even through Australia lost the Test, the knock seems to have boosted Hughes' confidence.
The 24-year-old walked out with a positive intent and took the attack to the Indians straight away. He hit seven boundaries to race to 25 off just 21 balls, before slowing down a bit. Along with fellow left-hander Ed Cowan, Hughes steadied Australia's ship and the duo were looking good for a big partnership.
MS Dhoni soon got his spin bowlers into the mixture, but Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha could not do much to destabilise the Australian pair. Eventually, it was Ishant who did the damage again as he got Hughes (45) to drag his delivery onto the stumps in the 21st over of the innings. India were back in this as stand-in captain Shane Watson walked out.
The 31-year-old from Queensland was coming from a remarkable week which began with his suspension from the third Test for failing to turn in a presentation. Watson had flown back to Australia to witness the birth of his first child, before flying back in time for the Delhi Test. In a swift reversal of fortune, Watson was named the incumbent Michael Clarke's replacement as skipper after the latter pulled out of the match due to a back injury.
Watson is in the side in his capacity as purely a batsman, and the onus is on him to play a captain's knock and put Australia on the way to a good first-innings total.
Earlier, the tourists made as many as four changes to the side that lost the Mohali Test. Watson's fellow suspendees — Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson — were drafted in for Xavier Doherty and the injured Mitchell Starc. Glenn Maxwell was also brought back in the playing XI as Nathan Lyon's spin partner, with Moises Henriques missing out.
India, meanwhile, made just the one change with Ajinkya Rahane getting a Test debut in place of Shikhar Dhawan, who hurt his hand while fielding in Mohali.
Brief Scores: Australia 94 for 2 (Phil Hughes 45; Ishant Sharma 2 for 21) vs India.
First Published: March 22, 2013, 11:31 am