By BV Swagath
India failed to wrap up the Aussie innings on Day 1 despite having the visitors at 136 for 7 at one stage and having bowled as many as 98 overs. Stubborn knocks from Steven Smith and Peter Siddle helped the visitors to recover to a respectable 231 for 8 by stumps on the opening day’s play. India are on top in this Test match already as the pitch conditions suit them better than the Aussies. The pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla lived to its bad reputation of being a nightmare for batting.
The hosts struggled to get their 8th wicket as Steven Smith and Peter Siddle put up a stiff resistance. After an hour or so in the final session, the 8th wicket stand was finally broken with Steven Smith getting brilliantly caught by Ajinkya Rahane off an inside edge forced by R Ashwin’s sharp turner. Smith lasted 145 balls for his 46 (3 fours and 2 sixes). Smith’s stand with Siddle was worth 53 runs. India couldn’t finish off things after Smith’s exit as Peter Siddle got another stubborn stand going with James Pattinson (11* from 57 balls) to see through the day’s play. Siddle remained unbeaten with a career best of 47* from 125 balls. For the hosts, R Ashwin was the most successful taking 4 for 40 in 30 overs while Ishant and Jadeja chipped in with two wickets each. Pragyan Ojha bowled some magic turners but failed to get what could have been his 100th Test wicket.
Update at Tea on Day 1: Australia collapsed in a heap after lunch and it was something predictable on a pitch that was very loose underneath. From a decent position of 94 for 2, the visitors slipped away to 153 for 7 in the 39 overs bowled in the post lunch session.
India’s first wicket of the afternoon came when R Ashwin changed his angle to over the sticks and tossed an off break outside leg to lure Ed Cowan into a sweep shot but it was the full length that deceived the left hander and bowled him round his legs. Cowan finished with a 99-ball 38 (with 7 fours). In no time, Shane Watson departed as well to leave the Aussies at 115 for 4. Watson (17 from 56 balls) not just took the risk of coming down the track to Jadeja but also committed the fatal mistake of playing a flick against the turn and ended up playing all along a full ball which spun away. MS Dhoni came up with a difficult take as he was blinded by Watson’s body but could affect the stumping in a flash.
In no time, the visitors lost Matthew Wade through a bad decision from Aleem Dar with the left hander given caught at silly point off Ashwin. Wade had come down the track and lost his balance, and the drifter from Ashwin hit his pad and lobbed up to silly point but didn’t seem to have taken any bat. Glenn Maxwell was adventurous striking a six and a four before he dragged a big shot off Jadeja into the hands of mid on. Next to go was Mitchell Johnson who was outsmarted by a carrom ball from Ashwin which he had left thinking it to be an off break and in the process was clean bowled.
By Tea, Australia moved to 153 for 7 in 67 overs with no hopes of a recovery. Steven Smith (25*) is the only recognized batsman left for them to stretch the total to some sort of respectability.
Update at Lunch on Day 1: Australia went to Lunch at 94 for 2 in 28 overs on a Kotla pitch that has already started to misbehave on the first day itself! Although just two wickets fell down, one has to say that the pitch played better only because of the new and hard ball and once it gets softened, there will be plenty of unplayable deliveries coming up to the batsmen on an ugly looking Kotla surface.
It was a disastrous start for the visitors losing David Warner for a duck in the second over of the match after the left hander was caught at second slip playing a rash square drive off a widish full ball from Ishant Sharma. Phil Hughes replaced him and played his shots freely and along with Cowan steadied the ship with a fifty plus stand. However, in Ishant’s comeback spell, Hughes got hit on the helmet grill by a short of length delivery that kicked up nastily off the pitch. A shaken Hughes in the same over was bowled chopping a length ball onto the stumps because of the uncertainty that crept in his mind.
By Lunch, Australia somehow went through without losing any more wickets. Ed Cowan is on 27* while Shane Watson who survived a close stumping scare got to 16* by the break.
Toss and Teams: For starters, it was Shane Watson who turned out for the toss for the visitors. He won the toss and decided to bat first in the fourth and final Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. The reason for that is the pitch at the Kotla looking already tired with full of cracks and with little hardness underneath it. There should be plenty of turn on offer from Day 1 itself and the bounce on the track is expected to be very uneven.
India have made one forced change with the injured Shikhar Dhawan replaced with Ajinkya Rahane who makes his Test Debut. The Aussies have made as many as five changes! First is of course Skipper Michael Clarke not playing because of a back injury. Shane Watson who has flown back to India takes over the captaincy and comes in for Clarke in the XI having missed the 3rd Test. The other changes are Glenn Maxwell for Moises Henriques, Matthew Wade for Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson for the injured Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson for Xavier Doherty.