India vs Australia, 1st Test at Chennai: Moises Henriques delays India's win

Ravichandran Ashwin was the pick of the Indian bowlers again, following up his seven wickets in the first innings with five more in the second essay © IANS

Chennai: Feb 25, 2013


Australia took stumps on Day Four of the first Test against India at 232 for nine and lead the hosts by 40 runs.

Debutant Moises Henriques would turn out to be Australia’s only silver lining in this first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy after he scored a second half-century and frustrated India in the final session.

Henriques not only ensured that have to India bat to win the match, but also took the game into a fifth day — a scenario that seemed unlikely at the tea break.

Australia had lost half their side when the two teams took tea. At 128 for five, India would have sensed a win by the end of the day’s play as the visitors still trailed by 64 runs.

Australia’s only hope of sparking a miraculous revival, captain Michael Clarke (31), was dismissed by Ravichandran Ashwin in the first over after tea. Clarke didn’t seem happy with the leg-before decision given against him, although replays suggested that it was plumb. Peter Siddle (2) also did not last long after being bowled by Ravindra Jadeja.

James Pattinson shared a brief 24-run partnership with Henriques before succumbing to Ravichandran Ashwin for 11. Mitchell Starc didn’t last long and, soon enough, Henriques was joined by No 11 Nathan Lyon with the score on 175 for nine; Australia still trailed by 17 runs.

As the Indian spinners attacked and the close-in fielders chirped, the team management would have ordered the champagne, ready to celebrate a much-coveted Test win.

However, Henriques was in no mood to concede his debut match so easily. He first ensured that Australia made India bat again with a mini counter-attack of his own, before bringing up his second half-century of the match by spanking Harbhajan Singh for a six straight down the ground.

In no time, the last-wicket pair brought up their 50-run partnership, with Lyon’s contribution being minimal. With Henriques showing no signs of relenting, and Australia’s lead swelling to 40, the umpires decided against awarding India that extra half-an-hour to finish off the game.

It would be the smallest of psychological victories for the visiting team — especially Henriques, who has played the second stellar innings in his debut match. With the result of the encounter all but certain, even if the Australians can pick up a couple of Indian wickets on Day Five, they will go into the next Test at Hyderabad on a much more positive note than they would have earlier in the day.

In the first session, MS Dhoni started the day like he ended the previous one, on an aggressive note. On just the second ball of the day, Dhoni reverse-swept Lyon for four and stated his intent. In the off-spinner’s next over, Dhoni smacked him over long-on for a huge six.

Australia finally got rid of Dhoni (224 off 263 balls) about half-an-hour into the session after he tried to pull Pattinson, but found the edge which carried to ‘keeper Matthew Wade. A marathon knock came to an end as the Chennai crowd rose to applaud their hero. Meanwhile, not many at the MA Chidambaram Stadium realised that Pattinson had taken five wickets.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar then seemed to have taken over the reins from Dhoni. The young all-rounder took most of the strike and did the scoring, whilst shielding No 11 Ishant Sharma from strike.

Australia finally managed to bowl out the hosts for 572 as Peter Siddle got his first wicket of the innings. Bhuvneshwar, after a fine, mature innings of 38 on debut, eventually holed out to Clarke at mid-on as he went for the shots.

With just under an hour to bat until lunch, Australia opened their second innings, trailing by 192 runs, with Ed Cowan and Shane Watson, who replaced David Warner at the top. The move was probably a ploy to use a left-right combination to counter the rough areas.

India expectedly bombarded the two Australian openers with spin from both ends right from the start. Ashwin and Harbhajan got a tremendous amount of turn and bounce from the snake-pit of a pitch on the fourth day.

Cowan and Watson managed to survive the first 15 overs without damage and looked to go into lunch unbeaten. But Ashwin had other plans. On the last ball before the break, he got Watson to go on a forward defensive stroke to his flighted stock ball, only for the cherry to hit Watson’s gloves and loop up into the air. Virender Sehwag, running in from first slip, took an easy catch.

Ed Cowan (32) briefly led Australia’s fightback, against India’s spin trio post lunch. The trio were getting some vicious nip off the surface, making life difficult for the Australian batsmen.

Soon enough, the visitors lost a flurry of wickets to the spitting cobra pitch. First to go, Ashwin trapped Cowan in front to a ball that stayed low. Cowan had done the initial hard work of thwarting India’s spin attack and looked disappointed as he walked back.

Phil Hughes joined Warner in the middle, but didn’t trouble the scorers. This time, the ball from Jadeja took a nasty bounce and pounced on Hughes as he tried to avoid it. Unfortunately, it took the top edge and looped up to Virender Sehwag at first slip.

Skipper Clarke then launched a counter-attack of his own even as Singh scalped David Warner (23) after a 36-run partnership. Clarke struck four boundaries and a six in his 31 not out and was joined by Wade in the middle, as India wrested control. Dhoni, to his credit, maintained an attacking field even with Clarke going for his shots.

Harbhajan soon bowled Wade (8) as the wicketkeeper-batsman looked to sweep the off-spinner from around the wicket. Half the Australian side was now back in the pavilion and Clarke was running out of partners at the drop of a hat.

Australia have perhaps been undone by too much aggression as none of the batsmen, save Clarke, could counter the devious spin off the wicket.

Brief Scores: Australia 380 and 232 for 9 (Moises Henriques 74*, Ed Cowan 32; Ravichandran Ashwin 5 for 90, Harbhajan Singh 2 for 55) lead India 572 (MS Dhoni 224, Virat Kohli 107, Sachin Tendulkar 81; James Pattinson 5 for 96) by 40 runs.

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