By BV Swagath
India completed a superb 4-0 whitewash over Australia through a 6-wicket win in the fourth and final Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. The Test match was over inside three days on a pitch that was heavily loaded in favour of the bowlers. However, there was some splendid batting against all odds, one of them coming from Cheteshwar Pujara who scored a brilliant 82* in just 92 balls (with 11 fours) to take India home.
India got to the target of 155 in just 31.2 overs thanks to Pujara’s high quality knock. Pujara had a solid partnership of 104 with Virat Kohli which sealed the run chase for India. Virat Kohli worked hard for his 41 (from 60 balls with 4 fours) before attempting a careless flick across the line to get out lbw to Nathan Lyon. Kohli left the park with India needing only 32 more runs. Sachin Tendulkar (1) who was most probably playing his last innings for India at home disappointed the massive crowd by getting out lbw cheaply to Lyon just like Kohli playing right across the line.
The homeside was in a bit of bother when debutant Ajinkya Rahane came and perished in quick time when he was caught at deep mid wicket trying to break his pressure with a big shot. MS Dhoni (12*) with Pujara finished the match without any further stutters.
Ravindra Jadeja collected the Man of the Match award for his all-round performance. R Ashwin for taking 29 wickets in the Series was named as the Man of the Series.
Update at Tea on Day 3: India are well placed to overhaul their trick target of 155 thanks to a positive knock from Cheteshwar Pujara who has stroked his way to 40*. The hosts finished the post lunch session at 72 for 1 in 12 overs. Giving company to Pujara is Kohli who is on 12*.
India lost the wicket of Murali Vijay (11) when the right hander attempted an arrogant reverse sweep to drag a Maxwell delivery onto his stumps off the pad in the 4th over. Australia opened the bowling with its two offies – Nathan Lyon and Glen Maxwell but couldn’t replicate the success that the Indian spinners had prior to this session.
Aus bundled out for 164: Peter Siddle’s superb fifty helped Australia leave India with a competitive target of 155 on a terrible batting surface at the Kotla. India have all the time in the world to get the runs but will the pitch let them score will remain to be seen.
It was once again Ravindra Jadeja providing the opening for India in the session by taking two wickets in two balls. His first victim was the confident looking Steven Smith (18 from 53 balls) who thought he was leaving a turning ball but to his shock saw his off stump pegged back by an arm ball right after lunch. Just the ball after this, Mitchell Johnson looking to drive one straight down the ground was bowled through the gate by one that spun in from the rough outside off to leave Australia at 94 for 7.
Just when India thought of wrapping up the Aussies, first innings half centurion Peter Siddle came in and played some big shots leaving his crease often. Matthew Wade (19 from 38 balls) tried to copy him but only to lose his wicket, inside edging a sharp turning ball from Pragyan Ojha to be brilliantly caught one handed by MS Dhoni down the legside.
India then ran into an annoying partnership between Siddle and Pattinson. Having run out of ideas, MS Dhoni finally introduced Ishant Sharma who got a short of length ball to reverse in, and hurry through off a crack to peg back the middle stump of Pattinson (11) to break a 35-run stand for the 9th wicket. Peter Siddle who went onto become the first player ever in the history of Test Cricket to score two fifties in each innings at no.9 was finally dismissed, stumped off R Ashwin. Siddle repeatedly came down the track much before the ball was released and yet got away but this time Ashwin managed to fire a widish full ball to beat his bat and pad by a mile. Siddle scored a brilliant cameo of 50 from 45 balls with 7 fours.
Australia were bowled out for 164 in 46.3 overs with Ravindra Jadeja claiming a career best of 5 for 58.
Update at Lunch on Day 3: The fourth Test is heading towards a finish on Day 3 itself as Australia slipped to 89 for 5 in 31 overs by lunch! The tourists are leading by just 79 runs and are possibly staring at a 0-4 cleansweep today. However, the Aussies should feel confident of winning the test if they can leave India a target of anything over 150 on a Kotla track that is doing all sorts of tricks.
Ravindra Jadeja provided the opening for India when he had Australia’s new opener Glenn Maxwell bowled by one that spun away from middle. Australia’s experiment of sending in Maxwell to open in the place of Cowan lasted only 4.3 overs and yielded nothing. Jadeja in the 7th over got the big wicket of David Warner who was beaten for pace on the backfoot by a deadly arm in front of middle for an lbw.
India’s next wicket came in the form of Phil Hughes who was given lbw to an Ashwin delivery which spun away from middle and stayed low to hit the batsman’s back pad infront of off. Skipper Shane Watson walked in with his team at 41 for 3 in the 14th over but could not repair the situation. A poor shot selection, an ambitious pull shot from outside off to a low turning ball from Pragyan Ojha saw Watson dragging an inside edge onto the middle stump. The next over, the hard-working Ed Cowan (24 from 44 balls) fell to Jadeja, going back and getting hit on the pad by one that turned in and stayed low.
By Lunch, the Aussies seem to be recovering with Steven Smith looking confident with his 17* *(from 50 balls) while getting decent support from Matthew Wade (16*).
India bowled out: Australia needed just the 10 minutes to take the two remaining Indian wickets on Day 3. Ishant Sharma and Pragyan Ojha both got out to Nathan Lyon in consecutive deliveries without troubling the scorers. Ishant was bowled through the gate by a spinning off break to which he played well outside the line. Ojha went back in the crease to a full ball which drifted in and kept low to have him lbw. Bhuvneshwar Kumar who was looking good was left stranded on 14*.
India was bowled out for 272 adding up only 6 runs to its overnight total. The hosts finished with a tiny first innings lead of just 10 runs. Nathan Lyon ended with a career best of 7 for 94 in 23.2 overs.
Build Up to Day 3: It is only the third day of the Test match but by the end of today’s play, we should be getting a fair idea about which team will be winning. India resume Day 3 hoping to extend its first innings lead which is just 4 runs with two wickets in hand! It is a perfect opportunity for the Aussie batsmen to come good once to leave India a difficult target to achieve on what is a tough batting pitch at the Kotla.