One last act before curtains

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 28 Mar 2017 09:19:14


By Satish Viswanathan,

DHARAMSALA,

Mar 27,

Jadeja, Ashwin, Umesh put India on course for series victory

AN EXEMPLARY showing with bat and ball on Day 3 of the fourth and final Test put India within striking distance of winning back the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. With the Australians setting the hosts 106 target in their final innings, only a sensational batting collapse can prevent the coveted trophy from changing hands.


In the six overs to stumps the Indians had already knocked off 19 of those runs, without losing a wicket to boot, leaving only 87 more to be got on what will, in all probability be the final day of the Test, series and season.


When play began on a bright Monday morning at the HPCA Stadium, the match was very much in the balance with the Australians perhaps holding the edge given that it was India’s seventh wicket pair at the crease and the visitors were still 52 runs ahead. But Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja had other ideas. They didn’t just ensure that the side got even with the Australians but carried on to earn themselves a crucial 32-run lead, one which was much more from a psychological point of view.


Taken aback by that 96-run stand, which led to India’s eventual 332 all out, the Australians came up with a pathetic display with the bat and were dismissed for just 137. It seemed as if they were making too much of the track and in place of batting normally given the large amount time in hand in the game, they tried to counterattack. The strategy backfired completely as first the Indian pacers Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar got stuck into them, following which the spin duo of R Ashwin and Jadeja took over.


It started with David Warner’s dismissal. A huge disappointment in the series, luck was with him in the first innings when he was dropped first ball by Karun Nair. This time around too Nair put him down, off Bhuvneshwar, but Warner’s luck ran out next over when Umesh got him nicking behind. Fellow opener Matt Renshaw, too, fell to the same Umesh-Saha pair but it was in between these two dismissals that India had their best moment.


Steve Smith, just one short of completing 500 runs in the series attempted a pull off Bhuvneshwar only to drag the ball onto the stumps. It was a rare failure for the Australian captain and it came at the most inopportune time for his side.


At 31/3, still one run behind India, the Australians were in a hole, one dug by the Indian quicks and one which the host spinners didn’t let them come out of. Australia’s own fast bowlers had done nothing of this sort in the morning despite bowling with the second new ball that was a mere 11 overs old. Pat Cummins thought he had Jadeja (63) first ball, given out caught behind by Marius Erasmus but the batsman immediately reviewed it and replays showed daylight between bat and ball. Thereafter it was Jadeja, who notched his sixth half-century of the season, and Saha in charge. Balls whizzed past them, bounced disconcertingly and swung away but it didn’t move them. Jadeja was struck on the arm and thereafter the grill by Cummins and he responded with a pulled four and hooked six.


It was simply his day as the three wickets that followed was to show. His spin twin Ashwin, bowling at his best again and giving everything one last time in the series and season, too, got three. The duo bowled in tandem once it became obvious that Australia’s highest scorer in the second innings, Glenn Maxwell, batting ahead of Shaun Marsh, nursing a bad back, had the measure of young Kuldeep Yadav.


Ashwin got Peter Handscomb first, caught smartly by Ajinkya Rahane at slip off a straighter one. Jadeja then got rid of Marsh cheaply, caught at short leg. Then, Maxwell (45 off 60 balls), who was taking the attack to the Indians, left a Ashwin delivery alone, one which was on the stumps, to be caught plumb in front.
The Australians had been broken and thereafter, despite some resistance from Mathew Wade, it was just a matter of time before they folded up.