Feroz Khan/Zeenews Sports
Adelaide: Australian captain, Michael Clarke, spared the Indian team the ignominy of another innings defeat on Thursday by not enforcing the follow-on after skittling them out for 272 runs in their first innings on the third day of Adelaide Test.
At stumps, Australia were 50/3 with a first innings lead of 382 runs with Michael Clarke (9*) and Ricky Ponting (1*) on crease.
It was another poor performance from the formidable Indian batting lineup barring Virat Kohli as they again succumbed to the Australian attack. Only the Kohli-Saha partnership of 114 runs provided a semblance of a fightback from an otherwise disappointing outing from the Indian batsmen.
On a featherbed like Adelaide, Aussie batsmen milked Indian bowlers for plenty of runs. Looking at this, eyes of the Indian batsmen lit-up. Finally there was a pitch akin to the ones they were familiar with in the Indian subcontinent, where they murder bowlers with impunity. The script was perfect and to their liking as well. However, Australian bowlers, who have repeatedly in the series humbled them on tracks that were considered bowling friendly, were in a different mood altogether. From the moment Indian batsmen took guard, one could easily see the intent, the awareness and intelligence that is needed to bowl effectively on a belter like the Adelaide strip, from the body language of Australian bowlers.
Speedster Peter Siddle led the charge with the dismissal of Virender Sehwag on the second day and then came charging again the next morning to do what he has done all this series. His first victim of the day, Sachin Tendulkar edged one of his deliveries towards slip cordon where Ponting took a good low catch. His next wicket came off a brilliant bouncer that rose and caught Gambhir unaware. The lefty could only muster a hop and push towards gully region where Michael Hussey took an excellent diving catch. Yet again in the series, it was another strike for the ‘Throat Ball’.
Siddle later came back to take two wickets in two balls and proved his credentials as Clarke’s go-to man.
To say Virat Kohli’s ascension to the Test ranks has been the only bright spot for India in a series that has been an utter humiliation, wouldn’t be going too far.
Virat Kohli slammed 116 runs encrusted with 11 boundaries and a six.
It was hard to reason why India’s top order failed to score runs when Australians showed how easy batting was on the track. A similar picture was about to unfold but got delayed when Kohli and Saha joined hands to stitch an important partnership that would not only stem the flow of falling wickets but also push forward the Indian innings in pursuit of mammoth first innings Australian total.
A resolute Kohli stood tall among the weathering Indian batting to carve his maiden Test century which was also incidentally the first from the Indian team in the current series.
There was, however, a bit of drama involved as the middle order batsman neared his century. Michael Clarke brought Siddle for another spell to wipe out the Indian innings. The pacer responded with his first ball as he trapped R Ashwin in front of the wickets and an ugly heave from Zaheer Khan produced an edge that was caught behind the stumps to put him on the verge of a hat- trick. Kohli at this point was on 91, but Ishant Sharma survived the hat trick ball to provide some relief to his teammate.
Four overs later, he completed his maiden Test ton that was the only positive outcome of the third day for the Indians.
Wriddhiman Saha who came to the side in place of MS Dhoni, showed a lot of maturity and character for his 35, providing able support to Kohli as the duo looked to steady Indian innings. He has already impressed with his keeping skills and fitness level in the match.
The stand was broken in the last over before tea as Saha misjudged Ryan Harris to get out bowled. After him, the rest could manage only 57 runs between them as India were found 332 runs short of Australian first innings total.
Aussie lose early wickets
Michael Clarke’s decision to not enforce the follow-on meant the pair of Ed Cowan and David Warner taking guard and extending the lead. The pair started off aggressively, collecting 37 runs in seven overs before Ashwin took a low return catch to remove Warner.
Zaheer struck in the next over, trapping Marsh in front of the wickets for duck while Aswhin got his second of the innings in Ed Cowan as Australia lost three wickets in three consecutive overs.
Peter packs a punch
For Australia Peter Siddle was all charged up everytime he came to bowl and his attitude earned him a five-for haul. His attitude was in stark contrast to the Indian bowlers who seemed wilted under the Adelaide heat. He even managed to extract bounce, bending his back on a lifeless track that showed commitment and extra effort that he was willing to put for his team.
He finished with a figure of 5/49 in 15 overs.
The other Australian bowlers were economical as well, with Nathan Lyon leading the pack with an economy rate of 2.28, stifling the batsmen for runs and deservedly getting the wicket of VVS Laxman.
All eyes are on the penultimate day of the Test as the Australian squad kept their game-plan under the wraps and the Indians desperately trying to avert a series whitewash.