It was a day of hits and misses. Australia’s scoreline — 273 for seven — at the end of the second day’s play at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium here was not an accurate representation of Friday’s proceedings.
Play began at 9 am, 30 minutes ahead of schedule, and Michael Clarke’s decision to bat first on a damp wicket was a rather bold one. And going by MS Dhoni’s statement that it was a “different” Mohali wicket, it was easy to see why the visiting skipper took this chance.
The big news, however, was the inclusion of Pragyan Ojha in place of local lad Harbhajan Singh. Shikhar Dhawan also got his Test cap.
The two visiting openers, David Warner and Ed Cowan, managed to survive till lunch and gave India some food for thought with their 109-run stand. Cowan, in particular, looked more resolute, leaving deliveries outside the off stump. The introduction of off-spinner R Ashwin also failed to make any difference as Warner started stepping out to negotiate the turn.
But there was one man who tested the openers with his good line. There was not much turn, but the occasional bad bounce was giving some headache to the batsmen. Drafted into the side as a batting all-rounder, Ravindra Jadeja has been a revelation with the ball. On Friday, his left-arm spin had the Aussies in a fix.
Despite missing a chance to get Warner, whose edge flew between Dhoni and slip fielder Virat Kohli for a four, Jadeja didn’t give up. He tossed it up once again and forced the well-set left-hander to lunge forward. Warner’s failed to get to the pitch of the delivery and only managed to offer a bat-pad chance which Dhoni grabbed by running forward.
Jadeja had done his bit but that’s when his bunny promoted himself to No 3.
After dismissing him thrice in four innings, Jadeja bowled an orthodox delivery first up. The well-flighted delivery deceived Clarke, well out of his crease, and Dhoni made no mistake. Golden duck!
At 139/2, Australia began to look shaky. The door was now open. By the end of the day, Jadeja took his tally in the series to 15 with the wicket of Peter Siddle in the third session.
Australia managed to post 273/7 mainly because of the exceptional resistance shown by their openers and an unbeaten half-century by comeback man Steven Smith.
The visitors also had Virat Kohli to thank. India would ended the day on a happier note had the Delhi lad managed to grab even one of the three catches — two offered by Cowan — during the course of the opening partnership.
Cheteshwar Pujara also dropped a sitter offered by the same batsman. Kohli finally took one of Ashwin to send Cowan back for 86.
The other batsman who held his own was Smith. Batting at No 5 for the first time in this short Test career, the right-hander didn’t show any hesitation in taking the aerial route. Ishant Sharma finally managed to reverse-swing the grand old ball in the 94th over of the day to remove veteran wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin and Moises Henriques in the space of three balls.
When stumps were drawn, Smith (58 batting) had Mitchell Starc (20 batting) for company.