• India v Australia, 4th Test, Delhi, 2nd day

Lyon five pegs back India

The Report by Daniel Brettig
March 23, 2013 « Conor McGregor: I'll shock world & steal Sweden show | Chartbeat test »
India 266 for 8 (Vijay 58, Pujara 52, Lyon 5-94) lead Australia 262 (Siddle 51, Ashwin 5-57) by 4 runs
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Nathan Lyon was in better rhythm than he was all series © BCCI
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Loosened up, aggressive, focused and familiar enough with the conditions, Australia are ready to give India a fright at home. The only trouble for the tourists is that the strongest demonstration of their readiness for the task has arrived with the Test series in its death throes. The captain, Michael Clarke, has already flown home.

Defending a middling 262 on a Delhi pitch that was always less than trustworthy, the stand-in leader Shane Watson marshalled his men handily as India slipped to 266 for 8 by the close. He benefited from a fine display by Nathan Lyon, who spun the ball sharply and landed it with greater consistency than he had managed all series. Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson also contributed useful spells, while in the field the tourists were generally alert and often combative.

Fired initially by the refusal of a very adjacent lbw appeal by Lyon against Sachin Tendulkar, the Australians became decidedly feisty during MS Dhoni's evening stay. Having earlier given Virat Kohli a send-off from the team huddle, David Warner took exception when Dhoni ran down the middle of the pitch while taking a run, moving the umpires to ask Watson to calm his opening batsman down.

All this had the hollow ring of a team fighting back well after the final bell had been rung, but there was consolation to be had for Lyon and Watson, both having endured particularly difficult tours. Certainly the decision to leave Lyon out of the Hyderabad match now appears to be the single most baffling piece of selection for the tour. Australia's least effective portfolio was the over rate, which slinked along at little more than 12 overs an hour.

India stuttered mainly because their batsmen did not go on from starts for the first time all series. Cheteshwar Pujara, M Vijay, Tendulkar, Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja all made starts but none went any further than 58, which was the sort of problem much more familiar to Australia over the preceding three Tests.

Smart stats

  • Nathan Lyon's 5 for 94 is his third five-wicket haul in Tests and his first against India. His previous two five-fors came against Sri Lanka (on debut) and West Indies.
  • Lyon's bowling performance is the joint-sixth best by a visiting spinner in Delhi and the third-best by an Australian spinner at the venue after Ashley Mallett and Richie Benaud.
  • The 108-run stand between M Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara is the fifth century partnership of the series for India, It is also the second century stand between the two batsmen after the 370 they added in Hyderabad.
  • Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed leg before for the 61st time in Tests. Graham Gooch is a distant second on the list of batsmen with most lbw dismissals (50).
  • Pragyan Ojha became the 18th Indian bowler to pass the 100-wicket mark in Tests. Among the five left-arm spinners who have 100-plus wickets, Ojha has the best strike rate but the third-best average.
  • R Ashwin's 5 for 57 is his ninth five-wicket haul in just 16 Tests. It is also his second-best bowling performance against Australia after the 7 for 103 in Chennai earlier in the series.

Australia had commenced with the unfortunate news that Maxwell was still at the team hotel due to stomach trouble, but harboured hopes of stretching the total beyond 300. Siddle's half-century was a just reward for his defiance, but he was not to venture much further, playing inside the line to R Ashwin and losing off stump. Pattinson was last out, a thin edge granting Pragyan Ojha his 100th wicket in Tests.

The Australians had their fourth different new ball pairing of the series, Johnson and Pattinson charging in at the hosts, and after a few promising early deliveries Watson was witness to the familiar sight of Indian batsmen collecting facile runs. Pujara was beaten between bat and pad by one Pattinson delivery that pranced back at him while disturbing the surface, but his response to the next ball, a serene back foot drive, typified the confidence with which the openers played.

If Johnson's off cutter appeared likely to be the cause of some discomfort on the dry, turning pitch, his early use of it was characterised by runs given up via the gloves of Matthew Wade rather than any wickets. It was somewhat surprising that Lyon's entry was delayed until 19 overs had been bowled, more so when he immediately had the ball turning and bouncing while finding his best rhythm of the tour.

The century stand arrived soon after Lyon's introduction, via the unedifying sight of Johnson throwing airily beyond Wade for four overthrows. Having fended off several off breaks that spun back dangerously, Pujara played for turn to a ball tossed up with more over spin and had his off stump tilted back. Lyon went around the wicket to Kohli and celebrated raucously when he pinned the batsman in front with a ball very similar to that with which he could easily have also dismissed Tendulkar.

On resumption after tea Siddle gave up 10 runs to suggest India might zip clear, but he made amends with a swift bouncer that surprised Vijay and resulted in a simple chance to Wade off the glove. Ajinkya Rahane's first Test innings was nervy and brief, ending with a Lyon off break gloved straight to leg slip, and Dhoni had barely begun his customary counterattack when Tendulkar was again pinned in front by Lyon, and this time given out.

Dhoni's stay did not extend far beyond his exchange with Warner, a half-hearted pull shot picking out Watson at a square midwicket, and Jadeja failed to offer a shot to a delivery that appeared bound to flick off stump. It had been bowled by Maxwell, recovered from his bout of gastro.

India inched ahead, but Watson remained eager for wickets. Following a brief rest, Watson swung Lyon around to the other end for the final over, and he completed the day's Australian rehabilitation by pinning Ashwin for his deserved fifth. If only it wasn't the fourth Test.

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

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