Being a seamer on unhelpful tracks at home is a backbreaking existence…..not! Just ask Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. After turning is perfunctory spells in the first innings, India’s medium pacers spend almost all of Australia’s second innings patrolling the deep or some such spot where the ball is an infrequent visitor. Ishant is summoned to bowl three inconsequential overs at the fag end to break the stubborn last-wicket stand. But skipper MS Dhoni is entirely justified in resorting to an all-spin attack on a crumbling pitch with uneven bounce. This obliges one to question the rationale behind playing two fast bowlers at the expense of left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, when the wicket was expected to deteriorate into a surefire turner by the fourth day. Maybe India will float three genuine spinners into the next Test; that would depend a lot on whether both Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja manage to hold on to their places. A point in their favour would be if all 20 Australian wickets fall to spin in Chennai, something we'll find out on Day Five.
Pocket-sized opener David Warner is demoted to No.3, thanks to a troublesome tummy. Warner is battling a bout of gastroenteritis, so it’s Shane Watson who comes out to bat with Ed Cowan when Australia begin their second innings. Watson’s done in by Ashwin on the last ball to lunch, and Warner finally emerges – from the restroom – on the field on resumption. Memories are awakened of Dean Jones’ heroic 210 in similarly distressful conditions in the famous Chepauk tied Test of 1986. Can Warner triumph over the flux within and without to build an innings of Jones’ caliber, and save Australia the match? Apparently not. He struggles consistently again all three spinners before becoming the fifth wicket to fall, trapped in front by Harbhajan for 23.
James Pattinson picks up three top-order Indian wickets across two three-over spells on the second day of the Chepauk Test, after which Michael Clarke chooses not to bowl him. As a result, both the new batsmen at the crease at the time – Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli – face very little of him. It may be that Clarke opted to replace Pattinson as the maestro had struck a succession of boundaries against him immediately after reaching the crease. But the young fast bowler is reintroduced only later in the day – again for just three overs. Clarke compensates by giving Pattinson extended spells all through the third day, but the results are not in tune with his previous-day performance. A theory that seeks to explain Clarke’s cotton-wool treatment of Pattinson attributes it to Informed Player Management – a euphemism for rotational policy – which apparently seeks to preserve the paceman for the extended Ashes season ahead; in which case, why is Pattinson even in the eleven?
Red earth, (no) pouring rain
One look at the pitch would have been enough to send creepy crawlies up Aussie spines. Aside from a smooth, oblong patch in the center – that is being steadily encroached upon from the rough all around – the rest of the track resembles a patch transplanted from Roland Garros. There is turn and bounce aplenty, but even more crucially there is an utter lack of bounce when the ball hits the rights spots. Harbhajan is able to land one bang on the deadly point, whence it dies and travels just enough to slam into Clarke’s pads. Australia’s best batsman against spin is out. From then on, everybody knows it's only a matter of time, unless untimely Chennai rain throws a wet blanket on India’s party – which it doesn't. Moises Henriques and Nathan Lyon hold up the inevitable, giving inclement weather another chance to make an appearance on Tuesday and spare Australia the blushes.
Sometimes, even Michael Clarke needs fortune's little favours to score runs. The Australian captain, not yet off the mark, flicks an Ashwin turner a tad too fine to backward short-leg, where the sharp chance is put down by the usually alert Virat Kohli. The ball, appearing to have dropped short in real time, is seen to have carried all the way to Kohli in replays. Clarke replies by stepping out and bullying Ashwin over long on. The off-spinner drops the next ball short, and the 31-year-old rocks back to pull it for four – a super response by a super player. But it all ends too soon when Clarke, having had his inside edge beaten several times over by Jadeja, perishes to a low Ashwin off-spinner, giving the local boy his rightful wicket.
After the sequence of records he rewrote on Sunday, Dhoni has a few more in his sights when he resumes on 206 on Monday morning. Sachin Tedulkar's 217 against New Zealand at Ahmedabad in 1999, the highest score by an Indian captain, is reached with a flat six off Nathan Lyon, and surpassed with a single next ball. The Indian captain continues his steady advance but falls eight short of the overall highest score by a wicket-keeper, Andy Flower's 232 versus India. On 224, Dhoni gloves a catch to wicket-keeper Matthew Wade trying to pull a James Pattinson short ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, meanwhile, reels in some batting records of his own. The young Meerut medium pacer gathers 38 - the top score by Indian debutant at No.10. Some record that.