Scorecard | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Test-debut tons
MOHALI: Murali Vijay's composed 153 and Bhuvneshwar Kumar's swinging strikes lent India an outside chance of pulling off a win over Australia in the rain-curtailed third Test, on Sunday. Australia ended day four of the contest facing disaster on 75 for three, just 16 behind but left with 98 more overs to fend off on Monday to avoid going 0-3 down in the four-match series.
India resumed on 289 without loss and were all out for 499 - a lead of 91 - early into the last session, leaving Australia 21 overs to face before close. Bhuvneshwar then knocked out three wickets, rejuvenating home hopes of outright victory. He snared David Warner (2) in the first over, trapped Ed Cowan (8) 'lbw', and then rattled Steve Smith's timber with a delicious in-swinger that moved away on pitching.
Phil Hughes mocked his lamentable series record by taking the attack to the bowling and was unbeaten at stumps on a surprisingly carefree 53, with nightwatchman Nathan Lyon for company. Skipper Michael Clarke, who spent a fair time off the field during India's innings due to a back strain, did not walk out to bat at No.3 or 4, but will be definitely needed to tomorrow.
Earlier, Peter Siddle claimed five wickets as India lost their last eight for 115, going down to the the second new ball. The day began anti-climactically and never reached the top gear of acceleration that enforcing a result in this rain-curtailed Test required. Shikhar Dhawan added just two to his overnight 185 before popping a sitter to silly point in Nathan Lyon’s the second over of the day.
Siddle swung one into Cheteshwar Pujara (1), who was given out ‘leg before’ despite a healthy inside edge on to the pads. With the spotlight firmly away from him all of yesterday, Vijay moved steadily towards his third Test century and second of the series. He had moment of concer: an outside edge of off Lyon fell just short of Clarke at slip, another off Siddle sped past the cordon for four.
Three-figures, however, were reached in style, a skip down the track to Lyon and a loft over long-on, Vijay’s second ton in as many Tests was the flux that was needed to solder him into one half of India’s rocky opening loveseat. Alongside Dhawan’s overreaching debut, this also means that Gautam Gambhir’s comeback road is likely to stretch up to the point at which the aforementioned couple hit overseas roadblocks.
While Vijay was depositing left-armer Xavier Doherty to various parts of the ground, Tendulkar (37) was playing himself in on a barren pitch. The maestro slog-swept Lyon and drove him through cover before creating a bewitching off-drive against Starc. But as lunch neared Tendulkar withdrew into a shell, only to be ejected by Smith in the last over before the break.
The rookie leg-spinner produced a gem - his first ball of the day - that turned and took Tendulkar’s inside edge and glove on its way to short-leg. So ended a union of 92 runs and gave way to slide when play resumed. But not before Vijay cut Smith to bring up his 150 and joined Vijay Hazare, Dilip Vengsarkar, Vinod Kambli and Virender Sehwag as the only Indians to have scored successive 150s in Tests.
The new ball struck with immediacy. Starc removed Vijay and MS Dhoni (4) ‘lbw’ with late swing, and Siddle returned to clean up Ravindra Jadeja (8) and R. Ashwin (4). Kohli partnered Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (18) for 61, the last partnership of note, and was granted enough support to complete a half-century of his own. Siddle, however, was in the middle of a rewarding spell. He snared Ishant Sharma outside off and rattled Pragyan Ojha’s furniture, earning his seventh five-wicket haul.
Australia stuttered from the start. Seconds after he had watched an outside edge land short of Ashwin at slip, Warner snicked Kumar yet again, this time straight to Dhoni, in the first over of the innings. Kumar struck once more when he trapped an unfortunate Cowan: a marginal decision considering the batsman’s stride forward and the shape of the ball down leg-side.
The tour’s monumental failure, Hughes, played the lone attacking hand amid the ruins. He drove the seamers and hoisted Jadeja over long-on. Nothing Hughes did, though, stopped the rut at the other end as Kumar uprooted Smith’s off-stump with a beauty. It will be intriguing to watch Hughes in action tomorrow, with the might of India's spin striving for a win.