Scorecard | Action in Images Rahane's case | Arthur's defence | 'India hard to stop'
NEW DELHI: Cracks as wide and sinister as those that had threatened to tear them from within greeted Australia at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday. Only these were upon the pitch for the fourth Test;`a surface that experts reckon will denude alarmingly as the game wears on.
Unfortunately for the visitors, that didn’t take too long. From 94/2 at lunch, Australia fell to 153/7 at tea and at close on the first day were hanging in there on 231/8, fast bowler Peter Siddle unbeaten on 47, the top scorer followed by Steve Smith (46), Phil Hughes (45) and Ed Cowan (38).
Ninety-five runs of the 231 came via partnerships for the eighth and ninth wickets.
Spin did most of the damage after Ishant Sharma's now-strictly medium pace had pried open the innings. Ravichandran Ashwin was yet again the main man with four wickets, including that of a distraught Mitchell Johnson with a 'carrom' ball. Ravindra Jadeja was in his usual restrictive avatar, picking up a couple and ably supporting Ashwin.
Australia are now well behind the lowest first-innings total to win a Test in Delhi: 252 (against Pakistan, 1999, Anil Kumble's 10-for match), implying a 0-4 blackout is well on the cards.
Led by the recently reinstated Shane Watson on account of Michael Clarke’s dodgy back, Australia elected to bat in tricky conditions knowing a wrong step would see them dig deeper into the trenches of humiliation.
David Warner did nothing to embellish that the team had undergone a spinal transplant. Dismissed in the second over on the morning, slashing indiscriminately to Ishant, Warner was caught by Kohli at slip for a duck.
Hughes took over from Mohali, going with the bravado of boundaries to counter what must have been a sinking feeling inside. Depression, however, was hardly in the air when he was around. Hughes spanked ten boundaries in his 45, including a glorious drive off his chief tormentor Ashwin and a flurry of fours against young seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
It was the other seamer that claimed Hughes. The southpaw, nailed on the helmet by an Ishant delivery that reared up and crashed into his helmet from good length, chopped one on to the stumps in the same over, ending the second-wicket stand for 67.
Turn was soon on the market, undoing Watson as Pragyan Ojha ripped it across him to have the entire ring go up in synchrony, albeit for different reasons, although all were quashed: MS Dhoni for a flash stumping; Virat Kohli for a faint edge. Watson survived to lunch, taken on 94 for two, a patient Cowan playing his part with unbeaten 27 in 83 balls.
It all fell apart after lunch, to the tune of five wickets for 59 runs.
Cowan (38) had extended his stay to 99 balls before Ashwin bowled him around his legs on the sweep. Jadeja then had Watson stumped in his second over of the day. Mathew Wade, in the side for Brad Haddin, perished to a bat-pad against Ashwin that was swallowed smartly by Murali Vijay at silly point.
Million-dollar Glenn Maxwell’s attacking ways yielded a six and four off Ojha, before an ugly swipe to Jadeja was taken at mid-on to end his stay. Ashwin then stunned Johnson with a ‘carrom’ ball, the batsman choosing not to play a shot and having no clue as the ball shuddered into the stumps.
Smith was the personification of judicious batting. His 53-run union with Peter Siddle for the eighth wicket was a thorn in the Indian side that was finally plucked out when debutant Ajinkya Rahane snared a reflex catch at short-leg, off Ashwin.
India took the new ball after 93 overs, in an attempt to dislodge Siddle. But the No.9 batsman combined with James Pattinson for an unbeaten 42-run stand for the ninth wicket, thwarting India's plans of dismissing the visitors within the first day.