Two moments described the intensity of the day’s play and the vagaries of the rapidly deteriorating pitch. Peter Siddle’s dismissal of M. Vijay and Sachin Tendulkar’s fall in the last session exposed the two-paced nature of the surface.
Cricket was engaging right through the second day of the fourth Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla here.
There was lot of heat generated in the middle as tempers flared when the Australians fell back on their traditionally aggressive instincts.
Bowlers glared, and a bit of gamesmanship signified the change in tactics. India was determined and Australia fiercely confrontational.
The two notable moments were so strikingly opposite: Vijay was stunned by the good length ball that took off while Tendulkar almost squatted as the ball ‘crawled’ and ended his struggle — by his standards — at the crease.
Australia, resuming at 231 for eight, added 31 runs this morning, and India’s response was fitting. It ended the day four runs in the lead and two wickets in hand.
After R. Ashwin finished with a five-wicket haul, half-centuries by openers Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara complemented the bowlers’ efforts.
Vijay and Pujara batted with remarkable assurance to put on 108 runs. The contest livened up as the two played their shots. The start, expectedly solid, was important to India’s planning. The openers were given a specific responsibility and they did not fail the team.
The pitch, a challenge for any batsman, demanded technical excellence. Footwork was the key, and Pujara showed the way by playing some rousing strokes.
Vijay’s intentions were positive, making the most of an over-enthusiastic attack, before a brute of a ball ended his stay.
Run-making was not an easy task by any yardstick. The ball was skidding and rising awkwardly. The cracks on the pitch played their part too. Batting was indeed hazardous.
To the credit of Vijay and Pujara, the Australians were left frustrated as India grew in strength and confidence.
Australia, however, fought and for the first time in the series looked a competent Test combination. The change in character could be attributed to Shane Watson leading in place of an injured Michael Clarke.
Watson plays it tough, and he did not lose control even as India threatened to run up a big total.
Pujara’s fall to off-spinner Nathan Lyon altered the trend. Having scored runs most fluently, he fell to a well-disguised delivery, the ball beating his defensive prod to hit the stumps.
Virat Kohli made the mistake of playing across the line, ill-advised on this pitch.
Later, Tendulkar, having escaped a leg-before shout early in the innings, was to commit the error of playing back — always perilous on a two-paced surface.
The master, not at his best but certainly concentrating hard, produced two exquisite shots of vintage value, a flick and a square drive off Siddle. Tendulkar appeared in regal touch but his form could not stretch beyond 32.
India had meanwhile lost Rahane, who nudged to backward short leg in a forgettable debut.
It was now left to M.S. Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to build on the good start by Vijay and Pujara.
Dhoni adopted an attacking posture but fell in the process. Jadeja was impressive when he marked Lyon to score most of his runs off before meeting a tame end, padding up to ball that stayed straight.
India ended the day with Ashwin becoming Lyon’s fifth wicket of the innings. The Australian had bowled with a large heart to earn the rich returns.
He will be the key when India bats last on this dodgy pitch.