CHENNAI: On a day when Steve Smith showed his class with his first Test century in 16 months, Ravindra Jadeja put his hands up to drag the visitors in what is already proving to be a dogfight of a Test.
The country's only elite all terrain all-rounder, after showing his worth with the bat in the second Test, couldn't have scripted a better day two. Four wickets with the ball was followed by a 101 on how to run, pick-up, aim at a single stump and run out Smith to help dismiss the hosts for 338, somewhat below par considering they were 206/2 on a pitch that's still decent for batting.
Even if India, who finished the day on 96/2, had other performers on Friday — notably Shubman Gill's maiden 50 and Jasprit Bumrah breaking through the middle-order during an inspired spell with the second new ball — it belonged to the southpaw from Saurashtra. If his entree 0f 57 at Melbourne whetted the appetite, his main course, a 4/62 and that run-out, made you pat your tummy in satisfaction. On a strip that didn't really offer any help to R Ashwin and Nathan Lyon — the pair are wicketless this match after bowling 40 overs between them — he kept things tight. It's something that he has made into an art form, attack the stumps, keep plugging away and things will eventually happen.
Needless to say, Jadeja triggered the Australian downfall by removing Marnus Labuschagne for 91. It was a nothing shot and the wicket came against the run of play, the length ball bounced a touch more, got the outside edge and was safely pouched by Ajinkya Rahane in the slips. One of Jadeja's great strengths as a bowler is not be too frazzled when he's being taken for runs. Because of his patience and the undying belief in his craft. That's why he ended up replacing Virat Kohli after the first Test. His patience and the ability to create pressure and completely tie up one end.
"The idea was to create pressure as this wasn't a wicket where you would get chance in every over," he said after the day's play. "You can't bowl all deliveries at same pace on this wicket as there was no turn on offer. You had to mix and match and create angles." That patience was on show when Matthew Wade decided to attack Jadeja. He kept tossing it up knowing full well that he had Wade's number. And so it proved as his lofted miscue failed to clear mid-on after two fours in as many overs.
Both Pat Cummins and Lyon trust their defence but Jadeja's accuracy, especially his quicker ones, are difficult to deal with when you are not attuned to the nature of the surface. And so it proved, with one bowled and one lbw. He, however, reserved his best for last — the Smith run out. It's something he will cherish for a long time. "I will rewind and play this run out as this is my best effort. A direct hit from outside the 30-yard circle... that's like a moment that gives you that satisfaction." To stretch the food analogy, maybe his dessert will see him contribute with the bat, something he has done with alarming ease in recent times — since January 1, 2019, nobody batting at No 6 or below averages more with the bat (minimum five matches) than his 60.25.
"Whenever I have been given opportunities, more often than not, I have delivered. Yes, outside India, my batting performances have been highlighted more. I am not thinking too much only want to cash in on every chance that I get," he said when asked about his batting prowess. If he delivers again, India could be smiling on Saturday night.