It was a typical Uppal wicket. It was lively in the morning session and easy in the post-lunch session before providing something for the bowlers. On a day when fortunes fluctuated, India choked Australia (63-4 in 21.2 overs) before the visitors bounced back after lunch not losing any wicket. India struck again after tea to put Australia on the back foot. When Australia lost their ninth wicket at 237, Michael Clarke took a gamble by declaring the innings to have a go at the Indian openers. But Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay saw the day (5-0) through without getting separated.
On an absorbing day of contest between bat and ball with a good crowd of over 22,000 turning out, Clarke produced yet another solid knock of 91 (186b, 9x4, 1x6). He applied himself and showed sense of purpose to bail Australia out of woods at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Saturday. Clarke and Matthew Wade (62) resurrected the visitors with a 145-run stand for the fifth wicket but India ended the day on a high.
India lost the toss but 23-year-old Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave a terrific start by rattling the top order. In a nine-over spell, the swing bowler removed both the openers David Warner (6), Ed Cowans (4) and also Shane Watson (23). Ravichandran Ashwin packed off Phillip Hughes to have Aussies reeling. However, the Indians had to wait for the entire post-lunch session to break the Clarke-Wade partnership when the wicketkeeper was held at point to give Harbhajan Singh his first wicket.
Utility bowler Ravindra Jadeja then got into the act. The left-arm spinner dismissed last-match hero Moises Henriques, who was catsled by a ball turning sharply into him. He followed it up by dismissing debutant Glenn Maxwell (caught behind) before bagging the crucial wicket of Clarke, who played across to be bowled. Harbhajan, who looked ordinary from the Shivlal Yadav End, was successful from the other end, taking the wickets of Hughes and Peter Siddle.
The morning session was all about Bhuvneshwar. He bowled the right length and settled into a good rhythm. Kumar took his first wicket in the third over when left-hander Warner was done in by a ball which swung in sharply and uprooted his leg stump. The swing bowler got rid of tentative left-hander Ed Cowan, who was adjudged lbw by South African umpire Marius Erasmus.
Electing to bat, the Aussies saw lost both the openers by the fifth over. Shane Watson did show his intent and hit a superb lofted on-drive off Ishant Sharma and then hit Ashwin over long-off for a six. But his attempt to pull a delivery from Kumar, which did not bounce as expected, spelt his downfall. Watson was struck in front with the ball striking below the knee roll for Erasmus to give his third LBW decision.
Hughes, who struck four boundaries, fell to off-spinner Ashwin, who bowled only 15 overs on the day with Harbhajan getting an extended second spell. The left-hander’s cut went uppishly to Dhoni, who missed in his first attempt before diving to his left to complete the catch. It was another skillful innings by Clarke. The Australian skipper survived two confident shouts for lbw decisions and then Cheteshwar Pujara was late at short leg when Ashwin induced a bat and pad catch off him. That apart, Clarke stroked the ball sweetly.
Wade, who suffered a cheek bone fracture in practice session on Friday, endured the pain to give good support to Clarke. With the wicket settling down, the ball came nicely to the batsmen as the Australians dominated the second session.
Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni made no changes to the team while Australia went with two spinners and two fast bowlers with Mosies Henqriues being the fifth bowler. Nathan Lyon made way for Maxwell while left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty came in for left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc.