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  • India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 4th day

Bhuvneshwar's blows put India ahead

The Report by Daniel Brettig
March 17, 2013 « Marksaeng emotional after home victory | Chartbeat test »
Australia 408 and 75 for 3 (Bhuvneshwar 3-25) trail India 499 (Dhawan 187, Vijay 153, Kohli 67*, Siddle 5-71) by 16 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Back injury prevented Michael Clarke from batting on day four © BCCI
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Whatever Australia's gains on day four in Mohali, they still ended it staring a third consecutive defeat squarely in the face. Further anxiety was created by the impression that the captain Michael Clarke's degenerative back condition had finally caught up with him in a Test match. India's 10 wickets were rounded up for a mere 210, but a pesky first innings deficit of 91 was made to look defining by the tourists' all too predictable slide to 75 for 3 by the close.

Beginning the day at a commanding 283 for 0, India lost Shikhar Dhawan for 187 from the 11th ball of the morning. Aside from M Vijay's studious advance to 153 and Virat Kohli's measured unbeaten 67, none of the rest held Australia up for a protracted period. All the bowlers played their part, but Peter Siddle deserved the greatest plaudits for an admirably sustained and well-directed effort that reaped 5 for 71 at the ground on which he made his Test debut in 2008.

The most disquieting element of Australia's day in the field was Clarke's visible struggle with his back, which he was stretching almost as soon as he walked to the middle in the morning. Clarke spent numerous passages of the day receiving treatment, and he was ginger whenever he did appear. Notably absent when the tourists batted, the lack of Clarke's reassuring presence no doubt having an effect on what followed. It is not yet known when Clarke will bat.

David Warner, Ed Cowan and Steven Smith all fell by the wayside in the 21 overs bowled before the close, their tormentor not a spinner but the clever seam and swing merchant Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who moved the ball in a manner that emulated the success of Siddle and Mitchell Starc earlier in the day.

Australia's sole source of batting comfort was provided most surprisingly by Phillip Hughes, who was able to get his feet moving against a couple of overs of pace before the slow bowlers came on. This was a matter of circumstances, Warner's early dismissal and Clarke's bad back thrusting Hughes into the middle earlier than he has appeared for most of the series.

He was the beneficiary of plenty of fortune, several edges landing safely and other deliveries snaking past his groping bat, but the sight of Hughes scoring any runs at all will be the source of some relief to the visitors. They had to find someone to do a job after Warner swished unwisely in the first over, Cowan played around a straight ball and Smith was undone by a devilish delivery that shaped as though an inswinger but held its line to pluck off stump.

Smart stats

  • Shikhar Dhawan's 187 is the sixth-highest score by a batsman on Test debut, and the highest by an Indian. The previous-best for India was Gundappa Viswanath's 137.
  • Dhawan's score is the second-highest by an opener on debut, after Brendon Kuruppu's 201 not out. Dhawan's also the first Indian opener to score a century on debut.
  • All three of M Vijay's Test hundreds have come against Australia. His average in five Tests against them is 73.25; against other teams, he averages 22.43 in ten Tests.
  • This is the 14th instance of both openers scoring more than 150 in an innings in Tests, and the second for India. The previous time it happened against a team other than Zimbabwe or Bangladesh was almost a decade ago, by South Africa against England in July 2003.
  • The partnership of 289 between Dhawan and Vijay is the third-best for the opening wicket for India, and the 17th in the all-time list.
  • Peter Siddle's 5 for 71 is his seventh five-for in Tests, but only the second overseas, after his 5 for 21 at Headingley in 2009.
  • In Australia's second innings in Mohali, Phillip Hughes has scored 29 from 43 balls against spinners; before this innings, he had scored 8 from 82 balls against spin in the series, and been dismissed five times.

Clarke's team had clearly resolved to tighten up their bowling considerably after allowing Dhawan and the match to gallop away from them on the third afternoon, and there was to be an almost immediate reward for the greater purpose with which they went about the fourth morning. Clarke posted a silly point for Nathan Lyon to Dhawan, and a hint of extra bounce had the ball deflecting gently from splice of the bat into Cowan's hands.

Siddle was gaining useful movement with the old ball at the other end, threatening Vijay's stumps, but it was to be Cheteshwar Pujara who succumbed after waiting 289 runs for his chance. Siddle bent a delivery back into line with the stumps, and an inside edge was not enough to prevent the umpire Aleem Dar from raising his finger. Pujara stood aghast and shook his head while walking off, but it had appeared a strong shout to the naked eye - which is all the umpires are entitled to in this series.

Tendulkar thus walked out to face some of the best Australian bowling of the series so far, Lyon and Siddle both delivering searching spells. But they were unable to add a third wicket for the morning, as Tendulkar settled in smoothly and Vijay maintained his serene progress, having lofted Lyon over straight midwicket to reach a third Test century, all against Australia.

Starc and Xavier Doherty were not quite as dangerous as the bowlers they replaced, while Siddle and Clarke both spent time off the field, leaving the de facto vice-captain Brad Haddin to manoeuvre the field having been in India for less than a week. Tendulkar appeared to have settled in for a long stay, but Clarke's decision to hand Smith the final over of the session brought a rich dividend: his first ball drifted, dropped, bounced and spun a touch, drawing a Tendulkar misjudgement, an inside edge and a simple catch for Cowan. Lunch came and went with Vijay and Kohli looking comfortable enough, but Clarke then took the new ball.

For the first time in the series Starc found some appreciable movement, his first offering straightening down the line and surprising Vijay, who offered only his pad to be lbw. MS Dhoni pushed his first ball down the ground for four, but it continued to swing. He was very nearly lbw to his second ball, and very definitely lbw to his third, a curling ball of full length.

Ravindra Jadeja was reprieved from becoming the third victim of the over via the thinnest of inside edges, but at the other end Siddle found useful bounce, and extracted neat edges from Jadeja and then R Ashwin, both held safely by Haddin.

At this point India led by only 23 with three wickets in hand, and Australia sniffed a chance to roll up the innings and perhaps set the hosts a final-day target. But Kohli held firm in the company of Bhuvneshwar, Dhoni's stubborn partner in Chennai, and the lead grew while valuable time elapsed. Their union did not last after tea, Siddle plucking the final two wickets with consecutive balls spread across two overs.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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