After a fruitless, laborous first session in the now hot and humid Mohali, India fought back to restrict Australia to 273 for seven at stumps on Day Two. This was after the visitors looked in control at lunch at 109 for no loss.
The wickets, at the end of the day’s play were evenly distributed among the spinners and the seamer, Ishant Sharma. The lanky pacer struck in the final session of the day to dismiss Brad Haddin (21) and Moises Henriques (0) in a single over. Three wickets, including those of David Warner (71) and Michael Clarke (0) went to the ‘part-timer’, Ravindra Jadeja. The quotations were added because it does seem unfair to call someone who has slowly risen to be his captain’s second-choice spinner as a part-timer. Jadeja now has 14 wickets to his name in this series. Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha also took a wicket each in the post-lunch session as the Australians never really recovered after they lost their first wicket after putting on 139 on the board.
Australia got off to a bright start after electing to bat first. Clarke won the toss for the third time in a row in the series and lost no time in letting his batsmen exploit the conditions. After a tumultuous last four days for the Australian camp, Warner and Ed Cowan provided some signs that the team has put the Homeworkgate saga behind them and have started on a fresh new slate.
There were no signs of the rains that had washed out the entire first day’s play at Mohali, with the temperature in the early thirties and humidity crossing 90 per cent. Any hopes the scattering of Australian fans had of a cooler climate after Day One evaporated as soon the sun shone in all its glory on the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium.
Aptly enough, the Australian team bid goodbye to their days of gloom and welcomed the sunshine on Friday morning. On a pitch that is as flat as a pancake, with just a shade of dry, yellow grass cover, the Australian openers made efficient use of the conditions after being put into bat by their captain, Michael Clarke, and propelled Australia towards a good first-innings total. The Indian pacers were finding no early help off the surface, like they did in Chennai and Hyderabad, and the outcome was evident from the first over itself.
Warner got off the mark with two crisp boundaries through mid-off and cover off Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who learnt very early in the innings that he was going to have to toil hard for wickets. Ishant, sharing the new ball from the other end, was his usual self, bowling a decent line but struggling with length. Any loose deliveries from the two bowlers were punished by Warner, while Cowan dug into his usual, patient innings.
Warner and Cowan had taken lunch at 109 for no loss and looked good to put on a big. They put on 30 more runs in the second session and were looking almost invincible on a track that ceased to assist the bowlers. Enter the ‘part-timer’, Jadeja.
In the 12th over after lunch, Jadeja brought the swift Australian momentum from the first session to a stop as he dismissed Warner and Clarke on successive deliveries. It was only the second time in his 91-Test career that Clarke had come one-down. He had hinted he would do so in one of his several pre-match interviews, in a bid to provide solidity to the top order. The experiment, however, did not provide the required result as he was stumped first ball after charging down the track in his usual aggressive instinct. It was the eighth time that Clarke had been stumped in his career, five out of which were against India. It was also the Australian captain’s second golden duck in his career; coincidentally, the first occurrence was also against India at the SCG in 2008.
India’s efforts in the first hour after lunch made for better reading — 26 runs and two wickets. Dhoni was operating Jadeja and Ashwin in tandem and the duo were doing a terrific job in containing the Australians. While Jadeja kept things tight from his end, Ashwin flighted it up and invited the batsmen to take the risks and play their shots, increasing the chances of taking wickets. Funnily enough, though, it was Jadeja who was flourishing in the wickets column in Mohali.
India’s confidence grew with the two wickets as they hunted around for more. Virat Kohli, filling in for the dropped Virender Sehwag at first slip, then spilled a chance off Pragyan Ojha. The left-armer, back into the playing XI after sitting out the first two Tests was being pushed to the sidelines by Ashwin and Jadeja and looked rather deflated. However, the Hyderabad lad finally got into the thick of things in the last 30 minutes of the session as he scalped the struggling Phil Hughes (2).
Australia thus lost three wickets in 14 overs for just 12 runs. It took a spirited 29-run partnership between Cowan and Steven Smith to take Australia into the break without further damage. However, after Ashwin got rid of Cowan (86) after tea, it all went downhill for the visitors as India clawed back into the match.
Smith, unbeaten on 58 and the only recognised batsman left, would look to take Australia as close as possible to a par 350 on Day Three.
Brief Scores: Australia 273 for 7 (Ed Cowan 86, David Warner 71; Ravindra Jadeja 3 for 56) vs India.