Heart. Luck. Skill. Guile. Determination.
Umesh Yadav bowled with the heart of a champion. The pacer has been a revelation this series, and has bowled, time and again, match-defining spells. A particular feature of his bowling has been his use of the old ball. On Day 3 of the fourth India-Australia Test in Dharamsala, Umesh showed he can also be an equal threat with the new ball. Umesh had seen the Indians being bounced out by Pat Cummins, and kept on a tight leash by the discipline of Josh Hazlewood. He married the two traits to become a potent force as India took a giant step towards regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar started without much luck, but just as the tide was beginning to turn, he had a huge stroke of it going his way. He had Steve Smith out bowled through a massive inside edge to give India their biggest breakthrough.
R Ashwin’s skill as a spinner is second to none. Those skills were on display as he picked up two vital wickets to break the back of the Australian line-up and leave them tottering. For the first time during the 17 Tests this season, Ashwin was brought on as the team’s fifth bowler. He, however, showed he can adapt to any situation
Ravindra Jadeja’s guile, both with the bat and ball, was on full view. When India had their backs to the wall in the first innings, he smashed them into a position of strength with some great batting. He took on the pacers, and beat them at their own game as he helped India eke out a narrow, but significant, 32-run lead. With ball, he combined unwavering accuracy with his subtle variations to prise out two key wickets.
With the odds stacked against him, Matthew Wade was a stand out with the bat. The Indian bowlers were running riot, but Wade blunted whatever was thrown at him with a dead bat, and kept the Australians in the fight. When there was no hope in sight, he pulled out his shots to give Australians a slight chance at victory.
All these combined to make the third day of the Dharamsala Test one of the most fascinating ones. It just added to the amazing quality of cricket that has been on view in this series, with fortunes swinging like a pendulum during an earthquake. At the end of it all, India went back knowing that the series was within their grasp. Australia, with their backs to the wall, have everything to throw at the hosts and will know one special session could turn the tables. The day ended with India at 19 for no-loss, chasing 106, after Australia were bowled out for 137 in their second innings
Resuming at 248 for 6, the day started in dramatic fashion for India and Jadeja. The all-rounder was given out off the very first ball, but went upstairs to get the decision overturned. That was as close as Australia came to a wicket for most of that session as Jadeja, along with Wriddhiman Saha, raised a fifty-run stand. Jadeja went on to bring up his half-century soon after as India got past Australia’s first innings total of 300.
Australia turned to Cummins to force a breakthrough, and he jolted the left-hander by pinging him on the helmet. Jadeja answered in style by pulling and then hooking the pacer for a four and six off successive balls.
His enterprise lasted only until Cummins’s next over as Jadeja inside edged a drive onto the stumps. Bhuvneshwar, Saha – who batted 102 balls for his 31 – and Kuldeep Yadav could only add 15 more runs as India were bowled out for 332 – a lead of 32 runs.
The lead might have seemed small, but by the time Australia got past that, they had lost their top three. Umesh bowled a spell that he’s unlikely to forget soon, leaving both Matt Renshaw and David Warner in all kinds of trouble. Just like in the first innings, Bhuvneshwar got Warner to edge towards third slip, and once again, Karun Nair spilled the catch. But this time, the drop did not prove costly. Umesh had Warner caught behind with a beauty that nipped away just enough to catch the edge.
Steve Smith came out with an intent to strike soon and big. He was off to a rapid start with three boundaries, including two against an out-of-clue Bhuvneshwar. The bowler responded with a short ball, and Smith tried to pull it too hard. The result was an inside edge that uprooted the offstump. India had removed Smith cheaply and couldn’t believe their luck. When Matt Renshaw edged to Saha off Umesh soon after, Australia were reeling at 31 for 3.
Glenn Maxwell and Peter Handscomb, both promoted up the order ahead of Shaun Marsh, who had stayed out of the field for more than 90 minutes with a sore back, shored up the innings with a fifty-run stand. India, now, fought back through their spinners.
Ashwin had Handscomb smartly caught by Rahane at slip with one that held its line, while Jadeja got Marsh out with a ball that spun back in sharply and popped to short leg off the bat. After Tea, Ashwin added to his wickets tally by getting Maxwell out LBW for 45 – Australia’s highest score in the innings.
Wade and Cummins were associated in a stubborn resistance that saw them score 15 runs in over 90 balls. But there was a degree of inevitability to it all, and it happened thanks to Jadeja, who had Cummins edging to first slip. Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon both fell for ducks in the space of seven balls as India looked to finish Australia off before their lead went past 100.
Wade, however, used the long handle to good effect to hit a four and six to give Australia a cushion of hundred, but he could only watch on as Ashwin wrapped up the innings at the other end. Josh Hazlewood had just survived a chance after he was caught by Murali Vijay at second slip, but reviews showed that the fielder had grassed the chance. Two balls later, however, he was trapped LBW.
Australia had been bowled out for 137 in under 54 overs. India had put in an almost complete performance with the ball to never give their opposition a sniff. Umesh had richly deserving figures of 3 for 29, while Ashwin (3 for 29) and Jadeja (3 for 24) rallied around their lead pacer to put India on the road to victory.
India’s response started in great fashion, with Rahul hitting Cummins for three boundaries in the first over. Rahul and Vijay saw off the six overs without much trouble as India edged closer to another series victory.
Brief scores: Australia 300 & 137 (Glenn Maxwell 45; Ravindra Jadeja 3-24, Umesh Yadav 3-29, R Ashwin 3-29) lead India 332 (Ravindra Jadeja 63, KL Rahul 60; Nathan Lyon 5-92) & 19/0 by 86 runs.