New Delhi: Australia were 231 for eight at stumps on the opening day of the fourth and final cricket Test against India here on Friday.
Australia suffered a familiar batting collapse as they ended the day at 231 losing eight wickets, after Ishant Sharma provided a couple of breakthroughs in the opening session. Spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja ripped through Australia’s middle-order. The bowlers were also helped by some atrocious shot selection on the part of the Aussie batsmen.
While Ashwin had figures of three for 33 in 22 overs, Jadeja was equally effective as he took 2 for 17 in 13 overs.
From a relatively secure 94 for two at lunch, the visitors looked in a tearing hurry as they paid dearly for their indiscretion, losing wickets in a heap.
Credit should also be given to India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for rotating his bowlers successfully. He frequently changed the ends from which each one of them operated, thereby making life difficult for the batsmen.
Ed Cowan (37) did all the hardwork surviving the dangerous first session, playing and missing on a number of occasions. Just when he looked set, Cowan went for a sweep shot and was bowled round his legs.
Australian cricket’s newest ‘Enfant Terrible’ Shane Watson didn’t impress on his Test captaincy debut. Having survived a stumping appeal in the first session, the all-rounder was removed by a typical left-arm spinner’s delivery from Jadeja.
The delivery pitched on the leg-middle as he drew Watson forward and the stand-in captain was beaten comprehensively trying to whip the delivery through mid-wicket. Dhoni took off the bails in a flash. Watson made 17.
Matthew Wade (2) was caught by silly point fielder to give Ashwin his second wicket, while IPL’s newest ‘Million Dollar baby’ Glenn Maxwell gave Jadeja the charge when he offered a simple catch to Ishant at mid-on.
Mitchell Johnson had no clue about Ashwin’s ‘carrom ball’ as he failed to offer a stroke, thinking that the ball would spin away. To his utter surprise, it spun back sharply to hit the off-stump.
From a relatively decent 106 for two, the Aussies were left gasping for breath at 136 for seven and the writing was on the wall.
A day earlier, Ishant spoke about him being more effective with the old ball but the lanky speedster decided to prove himself ‘wrong’ as he got a couple with the new ball.
For a change, he got a wicket in his very first over with a fuller delivery outside the off-stump, which Warner played away from his body with minimal feet movement. Virat Kohli standing at second slip finally held onto a catch, having missed a couple of chances in Mohali.
Even as Ishant and his new ball partner Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled well in tandem, one can’t rule out the fact that the behaviour of the 22-yard strip prepared by curator Venkat Sundaram was highlight of the first session.
Hughes, who found some form going his way during the second inning in Mohali, took the attacking route knowing well that playing a game of survival would be difficult on this track. He hit 10 boundaries in his 59-ball knock.
The left-hander hit some flowing cover drives off both Bhuvneshwar and Ishant. He dispatched a lot of length deliveries to the boundary but somehow never looked set partly due to the nature of the pitch.
Even some of the deliveries bowled by Ashwin rose awkwardly and frequently hit the handle of the bat.
In fact, before his dismissal in the 21st over, Ishant softened up Hughes with a delivery that took off from the short of good length spot and hit him flush on grill of his helmet. The delivery unnerved Hughes big time and two balls later, a delivery that landed on the same spot kept low and the batsman was played on.
Cowan and Hughes added 67 runs for the second wicket, which was lone bright spot in another disappointing show by the Aussies.