Mohali: Whenever yesterday is different from today, it promises an exciting tomorrow. We have found that in the ongoing third Test of the series, here.
Day I saw no play as rain played spoilsport, but the second day, much unexpectedly, remained not only rain-free, it turned to be a brilliantly sunny day where two teams fought an even battle.
On the third day, the Australian tailenders and the Indian openers made a mockery of the bowlers and, though, seven wickets had fallen on the previous day, Day III saw just three dismissals.
Then, when it appeared that the pitch has eased out considerably, helping the batsmen to unleash an array of shots, the fourth day was witness to 13 wickets tumbling. It is because of these developments, that one hopes that the fifth day will see a hide-and-seek game between the expected and the unexpected.
At stumps, Australia were down to 75 for three in their second innings, with Philip Hughes (53 batting) finally finding some runs. Nightwatchman Nathan Lyon did well to survive the 17 balls he faced. They are still trailing India’s first innings score of 408 by 16 runs.
After Peter Siddle had bowled intelligently to pick up his five wickets, the young Bhuvneshwar ‘swing’ Kumar had an impressive day, getting the all three Aussie wickets. The delivery with which he removed Steven Smith in the Australian second innings, was unplayable.
What else happened on Sunday, the fourth day of the Test?
For starters, Shikhar Dhawan’s dream debut was finally made to look more realistic as the left-handed opener missed a deserving double century.
Beginning on an overnight score of 185, Dhawan could add just two more and lasted only six balls before he foolishly pushed a Lyon delivery into the hands of Ed Cowan at silly point. It was perhaps the softest of dismissals that was possible for the man who batted for 251 minutes, faced 174 balls, and most importantly, scored 187 runs on debut.
Dhawan was on the threshold of quite a few records, including that of the highest score on debut, but becoming conscious of the approaching milestone(s) brought about his downfall.
If India wanted to go for a win, which had looked to be their intention on the previous day, they had to put up as many as possible on the board, as quickly as possible. A good lead with good time in hand were necessities. But after Dhawan’s dismissal, the Indian innings was like motion in slow motion.
Even Sachin Tendulkar played a watchful knock of 37, off 81 balls, trying his best not to switch on his flamboyant self. After sharing a 92-run partnership with Vijay, Sachin fell when his misjudged defensive shot found an inside edge to silly point.
Earlier, Cheteshwar Pujara was left cursing his luck when umpire Aleem Dar adjudged him leg before to Siddle, even though replays showed that he had an inside edge.
As three Indian wickets tumbled before it was lunch time, Vijay was happily nestled in his cosy corner, picking up runs almost unnoticeably. He brought up his third hundred against Australia, but it was not the moustache-twirling stuff of Dhawan.
When the Australians had the first new ball in their hand at the beginning of India’s innings, Dhawan and Vijay had a ball. But after the visitors took the second new ball, after 101 overs, the Aussies were a transformed unit. With Siddle and Starc re-discovering movement, the Indian challenge was stalled.
Vijay was the first to go, scoring a well-compiled 153 of 317 balls, and was followed by Dhoni (4), Jadeja (8), Ravichandran Ashwin (4), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (18), Ishant Sharma (0) and Pragyan Ojha (1).
Virat Kohli, however, managed to keep his head up amidst the ruins. Coming out of the shadow of his limited overs avatar, Kohli played a matured Test innings, scoring an unbeaten 67.
His innings not only earned India runs, it also helped India take a not-bad lead of 91.
India can still win the Test and Australia can still save Testů And we can still hope, that Monday will throw up new surprises.