Ed Cowan (29) stroked the ball freely and got a little too adventurous when spin was introduced as early as the sixth over. He stepped out and swung Harbhajan Singh back over his head for six. Another similar attempt against Ashwin cost him his wicket, this time a casual flick by Dhoni completing the stumping.
Ashwin struck again in his next over. The new man, Phil Hughes, gave himself room to, but chopped the ball back onto the stumps. Warner and Shane Watson (playing purely as a batsman) took the score to 126 by lunch, after which another cataclysmic session was in store for Australia.
Watson’s 28-run stay came abruptly to an end immediately after resumption, a fast, skiddy delivery trapping him in front on the backfoot. Warner’s chancy ways were curtailed on 59 in Ashwin’s next over, another leg-before verdict brought about by a tendency to stay back to fuller deliveries. The dismissal of Mathew Wade (also ‘lbw’ to Ashwin, although not as straightforward a decision) brought out Henriques – one half of the partnership that imbued Australia’s total with some decency.
Henriques was the second debutant of the game. India had also chosen to hand a test cap to rookie Bhuveshwar Kumar. Kumar and Ishant Sharma, however, failed to trouble the batsmen and were required only to prepare the ball for the slower bowlers. Although Dhoni also brought them on for short spells, it was obvious that success on this pitch would be reserved for spinners.
Clarke meanwhile reached his half-century with a towering six off Ashwin and overtook Don bradman’s Test mark of 6996 runs, also going past 7000 runs during the course of his knock. The 31-year-old Aussie captain – then on 39 – inside-edged Ashwin straight to short-leg just before tea, but umpire Kumar Dharamsena thought otherwise and snubbed the appeal.
Runs came easy in the last session. Henriques completed a half-century on debut; Clarke appeared comfortable; and it appeared the two would see Australia to close. Ashwin however had other plans. He picked up his sixth wicket of the innings when he ended Henriques’ 132-ball stay with one that struck him right in front after an attempted sweep.
Mitchell Starc became the first wicket to fall that was not claimed by the Chennai off-spinner. The tall left-arm fast bowler was bowled by Jadeja in the dying moments, leaving one last accomplishment to be performed in the last over of the day: Clarke’s hundred. ‘Pup’ advanced down the track and lofted the second-last ball of the day to reach his 23rd hundred – and sixth against India – in Tests. At 316/7, one can’t really say if his work is over.