Scorecard | Final day's report | Spin debate alive
Only once had Sachin Tendulkar begun a Test innings with a six: when he crunched Muttiah Muralitharan back over his head and out of the stadium first ball at Nagpur in 1997. On Tuesday, the maestro went one better, wading into Nathan Lyon’s off-spin for two massive strikes over long-on on the first two deliveries. Another hit for maximum would have won the match in style, but that wasn’t to be and it was left to Cheteshwar Pujara to stroke the winning run. Tendulkar though made what is possibly his last Test appearance at Chepauk a memorable one for those who turned up.
Match-by-match statistical upheavals are now commonplace. The last day of the Chepauk Test too contributed to a shift in numbers. MS Dhoni equaled Sourav Ganguly as India’s most successful captain on 21 Test wins. Dhoni has now won all the five Tests that he has captained against Australia at home, but lost all three to them away. When Ravindra Jadeja removed Nathan Lyon to finish Australia's second innigs, it was the 20th wicket taken by an Indian spinner. This is the third instance of Indian spinners picking up all 20 wickets in the match. The previous occasions were against Australia in 1972/73 and New Zealand in 1975/76.
In a match with several positives, there was still a festering concern for India. The state of their openers. Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay did very little to redeem their places in the side. Sehwag’s spectacles didn't appear to have helped his batting as he failed in either inning. Both openers were out to James Pattinson in the first essay. Their dismissals as India chased a modest 50 to win were embarrassing. Vijay spooned a catch to mid-off trying to drive; Sehwag was out defending to a spinner. There is bound to be fair discussion for Shikhar Dhawan to be drafted in for the second Test, after which a back-in-form Gautam Gambhir would be itching to get back in the thick of it.
Another issue that is likely to spawn debate is the number of spinners in the eleven. Dhoni used his pace bowlers for just three of the 93 in the second innings. All twenty wickets falling to spin hinted that the inclusion of another tweaker wouldn’t have impaired India’s chances, rather it would have lent another facet to the attack. Harbhajan Singh bowled better in the second innings than he did in the first; still his failure to hit the right line an outright helpful track made for no special performance. Ravindra Jadeja did his bit with the ball; his batting a mocking shadow of his domestic domination. Another expected turned at Hyderabad – the venue of the second test – just may allow Pragyan Ojha a game at the expense of a pacer.
After struggling against England, Ashwin returned to form with 12 wickets on a minefield of a pitch and against an inexperienced batting line up. For a while in the first innings, when he had scooped out the top six, Ashwin raised hopes of another 10-wicket haul – a-la Anil Kumble against Pakistan in 1999. But Ravindra Jadeja destroyed that dream by shattering Mitchell Starc’s stumps. The Chennai off-spinner however did become the first Indian bowler to take 10 in a match against Australia, since Kumble at the same venue in 2004. Ashwin also became the fastest to 500 runs and 75 wickets in Tests. He got there in his 13th match, displacing Ian Botham (14 Tests) to second place.
It was a match of contrasts for Australia. In Moises Henriques they found a valiant debutant who ground out two fighting half-centuries in nerve-wracking conditions. And in Nathan Lyon they discovered, to their misfortune, an off-spinner totally out of his league. While Henriques contributed 149 runs on debut, Lyon was taken for 215 in his 47 laborious first innings overs. India’s captain MS Dhoni was particularly severe on Lyon, taking 104 from 85 balls, including five disdainful sixes. His only high point was bowling Sachin Tendulkar before a century-expectant crowd, but really Xavier Doherty, Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith couldn't have possibly done a worse job.