The Australian batsmen were stroking in the centre-pitch around 1 p.m. No, they were not battling it out in the second Test. The visitors were having nets!
The Test, in fact, concluded before lunch. Displaying an appalling lack of character, Australia capitulated for 131 on day four to hand India an innings and 135-run win in the second Airtel Test at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Tuesday.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men lead the four-match series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2-0. And Dhoni is now the most successful captain for India in Tests with 22 victories; he has gone past Sourav Ganguly’s mark of 21.
Amidst the crowd’s roar, Ravichandran Ashwin walked back with another five-wicket haul — his third of the series so far. Operating intelligently, he spun the ball both ways and harnessed the angles.
Yet, Ravindra Jadeja was the stand-out spinner of the day. The left-armer removed key man Michael Clarke with a peach of a delivery that spun away. This was compelling bowling and a telling strike.
Cheteshwar Pujara was adjudged Man of the Match for his monumental 204 in India’s only innings. Having combined admirably as a unit, the Indians celebrated with Pujara.
The Aussies — the side lost its last eight wickets in just 35 overs on the fourth day — appeared clueless on a surface where the ball turned and bounced. They neither showed the footwork nor the soft hands.
If Ashwin dismissed the southpaws David Warner and Phillip Hughes from over-the-wicket late on Monday by getting them to sweep against the turn from a leg-stump line, he tested the left-handers from round the wicket on day four.
A flighted Ashwin delivery outside off drew Mathew Wade forward. The left-hander edged to Virender Sehwag at slip. Decisive in the first essay, Wade was feeling for the ball in the second.
Ashwin also employed the carrom ball against the right-handers in a manner that was judicious; there has been no overuse of the delivery in the series. He got his off-spinners to turn from an ideal line and the carrom ball retained its surprise value.
Glenn Maxwell was flummoxed by an Ashwin delivery that went the other way. The right-hander’s idea was to go with the spin but ended up playing across. He was trapped in front.
Jadeja bowled to a lovely rhythm. He has a smooth action and does pivot to get his body behind his deliveries. The left-armer got the sphere to bite and turn with subtle variations in trajectory.
And Jadeja’s accuracy — his USP really — gradually put the batsmen under stress. The left-armer has evolved as a bowler and the delivery that went through Clarke’s defence to disturb the stumps was a beauty.
The ball drifted in, pitched on middle and hit the off-stump. Clarke stretched his front foot and saw his stumps re-arranged.
Jadeja and Clarke were involved in a brief but fascinating duel. Jadeja gave the ball a hint of air and Australian captain, waltzing down, eased him over covers for a six.
Perhaps, the fleet-footed Clarke is better off — unless the length warrants otherwise — skipping down the track and not allowing the ball to spin in these conditions than pushing forward (this led to his dismissal by Jadeja).
The left-handed opener Ed Cowan (44) was tenacious, but given the opportunity, essayed the cut against the spinners. A batsman’s strength can also be his weakness and Jadeja struck with a quicker delivery closer to his body for the stroke. The resultant edge was snapped up by Sehwag off Dhoni’s pads.
Jadeja did impress against the left-handers too, bowling over-the-wicket and getting the ball to straighten or spin in. There were also the footmarks of the right-arm pacemen for him to exploit. His lengthy spell on Tuesday from the press-box end — 15-6-31-3 — was high on precision and value.
Jadeja can also be quick on the field and scored a direct hit from cover to run out Moises Henriques. Little went right for the men from down under.
In the initial overs of the morning, there was unexpected success for Ishant Sharma. Shane Watson attempted to glance the paceman and was splendidly held by a diving Dhoni. Playing as a specialist batsman in this series, Watson needs to justify his selection. His game has been too chancy for a No. 4 batsman in the first two Tests.
Australia also made history of the dubious kind at Uppal.
It is now the first team to lose by an innings after declaring its first innings closed.
Australia finds itself in a hole in this series.
The Indians need to shut out the visiting side in the remaining two Tests.
Australia — 1st innings: 237 for nine decl.
India — 1st innings: 503.
Australia — 2nd innings: Ed Cowan c Sehwag b Jadeja 44 (150b, 6x4), D. Warner b Ashwin 26 (56b, 3x4, 1x6), P. Hughes b Ashwin 0 (9b), S. Watson c Dhoni b Ishant 9 (35b, 1x6), M. Clarke b Jadeja 16 (31b, 1x6), M. Wade c Sehwag b Ashwin 10 (28b, 1x4), M. Henriques (run out) 0 (4b), G. Maxwell lbw b Ashwin 8 (22b, 1x4), P. Siddle c Kohli b Jadeja 4 (14b), J. Pattinson lbw b Ashwin 0 (27b), X. Doherty (not out) 1 (26b), Extras (b-7, lb-6): 13; Total (in 67 overs) 131.
Fall of wickets: 1-56 (Warner), 2-56 (Hughes), 3-75 (Watson), 4-108 (Clarke), 5-111 (Cowan), 6-111 (Henriques), 7-123 (Maxwell), 8-130 (Siddle), 9-130 (Wade).
India bowling: Bhuvneshwar 6-4-7-0, Ashwin 28-12-63-5, Harbhajan 10-7-10-0, Jadeja 18-8-33-3, Ishant 5-2-5-1.
Man-of-the-match: C. Pujara.