New Delhi: India's quest for a historic clean sweep started on a good note as the host spinners continued their dominance over Australia to take the honours on the opening day of the fourth and final cricket Test here on Friday.
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Australia, sans their injured skipper Michael Clarke, managed 231 for eight at stumps on the first day after opting to bat on a dodgy Feroze Shah Kotla strip.
The visitors' total was given a semblance of respectability by the 53-run eight-wicket partnership between Steven Smith and Peter Siddle followed by an unbroken 43-run ninth-wicket stand between Siddle and James Pattinson.
Phillip Hughes, with a quick fire 45 in the top-order, and Steven Smith, with a patient 46 in the middle-order, were the two major contributors.
The gutsy Siddle (47 batting) also fought hard, adding some crucial runs with Pattinson.
Ravichandran Ashwin (4/40) was the wrecker-in-chief and was ably complemented by Ravindra Jadeja (2/34) and Ishant Sharma (2/35).
If the first day's pitch was any indication, the match is unlikely to go into the fifth day as the considerable wear and tear made life difficult for the Aussie batsmen, majority of whom didn't seem to possess the requisite technique to counter the questions asked by the Jadeja-Ashwin duo.
After Ishant provided a couple of breakthroughs in the opening session, Ashwin and Jadeja ripped through the middle-order in the post-lunch session, helped by some atrocious shot selection on part of the opposition batsmen.
From a relatively secure 94 for two at lunch, the visitors suddenly looked in a hurry and paid dearly for their indiscretion losing wickets in a heap.
Credit should also be given to India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for rotating his bowlers successfully. He frequently changed the ends from which each one of them operated, thereby making life difficult for the batsmen.
Ed Cowan (37) did all the hard work surviving the dangerous first session playing and missing on a number of occasions. Just when he looked set, Cowan went for a sweep shot and was bowled round his legs.
Leading the side, Shane Watson didn't impress on his Test captaincy debut. Having survived a stumping appeal in the first session, the all-rounder was removed by a typical left-arm spinner's delivery from Ravindra Jadeja.
The delivery pitched on the leg-middle as he drew Watson forward and the stand-in captain was beaten comprehensively while trying to whip the delivery through mid-wicket.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni whipped off the bails in a flash. Watson made 17.
Matthew Wade (2) was caught by the silly point fielder to give Ashwin his second wicket while IPL's newest 'million dollar' man Glenn Maxwell gave Jadeja the charge to offer a simple catch to Ishant at mid-on.
Mitchell Johnson had no clue about Ashwin's carrom ball, failing to offer a stroke thinking that the ball would spin away. To his utter surprise, it spun back sharply to hit the off-stump.
From a relatively decent 106 for two, the Aussies were left gasping for breath at 136 for seven, and the writing was on the wall.
However, Smith and Siddle added 53 runs for the eighth wicket to stem the rot. Smith hit two huge sixes off Pragyan Ojha during his 145-ball innings.
In the morning session, Ishant, who had yesterday spoken about him being more effective with the old ball, decided to prove himself 'wrong' as he got a couple scalps early on.
For a change, Ishant got a wicket in his very first over
with a fullish delivery outside the off-stump which Warner played away from his body with minimal feet movement.
Virat Kohli, standing at second slip, finally held onto a catch, having missed a couple of chances in Mohali.
While Ishant and his new ball partner Buvneshwar Kumar bowled well in tandem but the track, prepared by curator Venkat Sundaram, also helped their cause to some extent.
Hughes, who found some form going his way during the second inning in Mohali, took the attacking route knowing well that playing a game of survival would be difficult on this track. He hit 10 boundaries in his 59-ball 45.
The left-hander hit some flowing cover drives off both Bhuvneshwar and Ishant. He dispatched a lot of length deliveries to the boundary but somehow never looked set, which was partly due to the nature of the pitch. Even some of the deliveries bowled by Ashwin rose awkwardly and frequently hit the handle of the bat.
In fact, before his dismissal in the 21st over, Ishant softened up Hughes with a delivery that took off from short of a good length spot and hit him flush on the grill of his helmet. The delivery unnerved Hughes big time and two balls later, a delivery that landed on the same spot kept low and the batsman played on.
Cowan and Hughes added 67 runs for the second wicket, which was the lone bright spot in another disappointing show by Australia's top-order.
Australia: 231 for eight in 98 overs (Peter Siddle 47 not out, Steven Smith 46, Phil Hughes 45, Ed Cowan 38; Ravichandran Ashwin 4/40, Ravindra Jadeja 2/34, Ishant Sharma 2/35).
First Published: Friday, March 22, 2013, 17:03