For the fourth successive time, the script took a familiar pattern with Australia winning the toss and frittering away the advantage. As a debut captain, Shane Watson opted to bat in the fourth Test but Aussies floundered to be reduced to 136 for 7 before ending the first day at 231 for 8 at Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium here on Friday. The top order flopped again and the Aussie plans went awry on a ‘dry’ difficult wicket that could break and help the spinners. With Michael Clarke ruling himself out of the match, the Australians wobbled as the Indian bowlers proved too strong for the visitors.
The first wicket fell in the second over and it was the familiar huddle by the Indians with each Australian wicket on the day. The Indian dominance was complete. The lower order gave some respectability to the total, thank to Peter Siddle, who batted for 135 minutes for his highest Test score of (47 not out).
After winning the toss, Australia did not have the courage to ask India to bat first. Ravichandran Ashwin continued to trouble the Australians with four wickets on the day while left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja took two important wickets and Ishant Sharma, who hasn’t been effective with the new ball in this series, tasted success with the new ball. Sharma snared up left-hander David Warner, who played a loose shot and the resultant edge was comfortably taken in the second slip by Virat Kohli. Bhuvneshwar Kumar did swing the ball but could not take any wickets.
Phil Hughes made his intentions clear. The left-hander decided to go after the bowlers. He struck three boundaries off Kumar in one over and batted more freely. He slammed 10 boundaries before Sharma, after changing ends, bowled a lively over to set up Hughes’ dismissal. He banged one short to have Hughes in discomfort. Having softened the batsman, Sharma brought in one sharply and a hesitant Hughes played on to be bowled.
Walking into bat for the first time as skipper, Watson tucked Sharma to fine leg for a boundary as Aussies went to lunch at 94 for 2. On resumption, Watson cut and pulled left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha. But his innings was shortlived. Skipper MS Dhoni introduced Jadeja in the 37th over and in his second over, the left-arm spinner foxed Watson with a ball that turned away to be stumped. It was sixth time in the series that Jadeja had a hand in the dismissals of Australian captains. Clarke fell to Jadeja for five times and Watson became his sixth victim. Cowan, who was batting sensibly for his 99-ball 38, went for an expansive sweep shot to be bowled around his legs by Ashwin
After the dismissals of Watson and Cowan, Australia self-destructed. When Matthew Wade walked in, Dhoni immediately brought in Ashwin because he was a left-handed batsman. Wade was dismissed to a bat and pad catch at silly point.
Trying to wriggle out of a tight situation, Glenn Maxwell perished, going for an ambitious shot to be caught at mid-on. Mitchell Johnson did not read the carromball from Ashwin. The wicket played in the Aussies’ mind. But the truth was at least four batsmen were out to poor shot selection. It was left to Steve Smith and Siddle to resurrect the innings. Smith showed a disciplined approach to negotiate the spinners. Both Smith and Siddle eschewed all risky shots and went on to do the repair job. Once settled, Smith struck sixes off Ojha, who was a big disappointment. He bowled a bad line to be punished. The pair realised 53 runs but Ashwin broke the partnership with a sharp delivery and debutant Ajinkya Rahane pulled off a smart catch at short leg to pack off Smith (46).
Siddle batted with a straight bat to take the Australians past the 200-run mark. The seventh and eighth-wicket stands produced 97 runs much to the frustration of Dhoni.