Ironically on a day the Australian batsmen demonstrated unprecedented intensity, the most bizarre shot came from the least probable candidate, Michael Clarke, whose momentary indiscretion swung the match momentarily in India’s favour, after openers Ed Cowan and David Warner had, for the first time in the series, laid a substantial foundation.
From a point of promise, if not dominance, after Warner and Cowan added 139 runs, Australia stuttered to a tricky 273 for 7 at stumps on the second day of the third Test, and for every fallen wicket, the absurdity of Clarke’s mode of dismissal only amplified.
The first ball upon his arrival, Clarke stepped out of his crease to Ravindra Jadeja, his usual four-step tip-tap to the spinners, so far so prolific, but the ball pitched a few inches lesser than he had anticipated, and it fizzed across him for Dhoni to affect a routine stumping.
Though Clarke might have realised he wasn’t up to the pitch of the ball — and hence attempted to check than go through with his shot — Jadeja’s faster pace meant he had little time to make the adequate adjustment to get back to the crease and save his wicket. Whatever be it, his mode of dismissal was unwarranted, though Jadeja too merits credit for his length.
Two wickets in two balls — Warner was dismissed the ball before — the resistance of Cowan and Warner seemed wasted, and a familiar implosion loomed large. The struggling Phil Hughes departed soon after, as Australia lost three wickets for 12 runs. Though Cowan and Steven Smith, went about resurrecting, Cowan’s dismissal diminished Australia’s aspirations.
Although Cowan’s 238-ball 86 exemplified the virtues of grit and graft, he was the beneficiary of India’s sloppy fielding, as he was reprieved thrice (on 39, 64 and 85) — twice by Virat Kohli at first slip and once by Cheteshwar Pujara at silly point. His 139-run-alliance with a restrained David Warner (71 off 147 balls) was the crux of their attempt to put up a big first-innings total.
They grinded an Indian attack bereft of imagination and discipline, best portrayed by Ishant Sharma’s waywardness, though he partially redeemed himself with the scalps of Brad Haddin and Moises Henriques with prodigious reverse swing after tea (a probing spell of 4-1-7-2).
Ravichandran Ashwin was spasmodically effective while Pragyan Ojha, who replaced Harbhajan Singh, was rusty and prone to straying down the leg side.
Ravindra Jadeja was India’s punt-horse. Unlike Ashwin and Ojha, Jadeja, on the contrary, is flatter through the air and gives more zip and action on the ball. So if it turns and bounces when a batsman has to play forward, there is hardly any time to adjust.
Contrastingly, Ojha and Ashwin are slower, loopy bowlers — an action which can, and does, get wickets but it also gives a batsman more time to stay back, watch the ball spin and adjust his stroke.
Except the openers and Smith, the lone surviving specialist batsman, unbeaten on 58, none paid heed to the time-tested cricketing tenets.