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Jadeja leads all-round effort as India chase 106 for series win

Wisden India logo Wisden India 27-03-2017
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It’s been a series where each ball has been an incident, each over an act, each session a stage-play, each day an epic. So why should the moving day of the final Test be any different?

Full scorecard: India vs Australia, 4th Test

Buoyed by the final-session strikes on the second evening by Nathan Lyon and energised after a good night’s rest, Australia arrived at the HPCA Stadium on Monday (March 27) morning full of beans. At 248 for 6, India were still 52 behind on the first innings and the second new ball was a mere four overs young. Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood had showcased their fire and intensity against the Indian top order the previous morning, only the lower order stood between them and a sizeable lead.

As theories go, this was pretty sound and hard to argue with. But games of cricket, especially Test cricket, don’t work on theories.

© AFP

Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja, finally beginning to think of himself as a Test batsman, and therefore batting like one, pieced together probably the most pivotal stand of the series, an association of 96 that turned potential deficit into morale-lifting lead. By the time Australia whittled away at the Indian resistance during an extended opening session, India had added 84 to their overnight tally, posted 332 and opened up a lead of 32.

By itself, it wasn’t an extraordinarily massive advantage, but given how the surface was playing and the stakes involved with the series tied 1-1, it swelled to reasonably significant proportions. And when Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, matching Hazlewood and Cummins for effort and intensity if not sheer pace, lopped off the top three before the deficit had been wiped out, the smiles that had deserted Australian faces by lunch had been replaced by creased brows and that sinking feeling.

The pacers did the early damage: among their victims were David Warner, who completed a miserable tour by failing to capitalise on another dropped chance by Karun Nair, and Steven Smith. Then, the old firm of Jadeja and R Ashwin got into their familiar act to bulldoze through the middle order once the tetchy alliance between Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell had been snipped.

Photos: 25 cricket facts you won't believe ever existed

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All of this meant Australia were shot out for 137 on an increasingly testing surface of uneven bounce due to widening cracks to set India a target of 106 in six tricky overs to the close, and two full days thereafter.

KL Rahul sent India on their way with three corking fours in the first over from Cummins as he and M Vijay took the team to an untroubled 19 without loss at stumps. The hosts need a further 87 for the Test and the series, but will take nothing for granted, not after the pendulous swings of the last four weeks.

India had multiple heroes on day three, and those weren’t merely with bat and ball. Apart from that Nair lapse that threw Warner a lifeline which he chose not to grab and Ashwin’s late miss at slip to reprieve Matthew Wade, India’s catching was outstanding. Ajinkya Rahane led the way with a stunning pouch at slip to see the back of Handscomb, while Cheteshwar Pujara was brilliant close-in, the senior pros responding to the need of the hour with example-setting excellence.

If, however, there were a man of the day, it had to be Jadeja, notwithstanding the fact that Umesh again bowled his heart out and Saha continued to show how much he has come on this season. Jadeja’s resourcefulness with the bat was matched only by his parsimony and incisiveness with the ball, Australia finding few answers to his all-round skills that have had the number of many a team in the past.

His seventh half-century had already pushed Australia on the back foot, his 3 for 24 from 18 probing overs then making sure there was no way back for the opposition after the early running had been done by Umesh and Bhuvneshwar.



Warner’s stay in the middle only lasted 17 minutes, but it was thrill-a-second stuff. A lash over slip for four, a blow to the chest as Bhuvneshwar got appreciable lift, the dropped chance the next ball, and then the sucker punch from Umesh who bowled the ball that bit fuller to catch the outside edge. One thorn out of the way, India immediately ran into another in Smith, who again looked in glorious touch as he unfurled a series of boundaries despite the pace and bounce the Indian quicks were generating by banging the ball in. 

Playing one shot too many, however, the Australian captain pulled Bhuvneshwar on to his stumps to send the Indian fielders on a delirious lap. When Umesh was further rewarded for his lion-heartedness as Matt Renshaw followed him into the wicketkeeper’s gloves, Australia were effectively minus 1 for 3. To exacerbate their woes, Shaun Marsh was nursing a bad back and couldn’t bat at No. 4, leaving Handscomb and Maxwell to rally the forces.

Ajinkya Rahane turned to Kuldeep Yadav as the first spinning option, but the first-innings hero felt the full fury of the positive Maxwell’s willow. Reading him with more authority than in the first innings, both Maxwell and Handscomb played him with great assurance in building a stand of 56 when, with tea imminent, Ashwin produced an outside edge that was gobbled up high and almost behind him by the skipper.

Marsh came and went in a jiffy, and when Maxwell suffered another brain fade by offering no stroke to an Ashwin offbreak, only the bowlers remained to be cleaned up. Jadeja and Ashwin did that expertly, though Ashwin had to dismiss Hazlewood twice – the catch the first time by M Vijay was deemed illegal – to draw a swift curtain down on the Australian innings.

In making his sixth half-century of the season, Jadeja batted with a judicious amalgam of watchful defence and spectacular strokeplay, facets that haven’t always been in sync until recently. Jadeja was ruled caught behind by Marais Erasmus off the day’s first delivery from Cummins, and the batsman immediately reviewed it because it was the pad and not the ball that had hit his bat. He celebrated the moment with a gorgeous back-drive off the same bowler, and alternated between caution and attack.

Saha was content to ride in his partner’s wake, nudging a single here, scrambling a two there, as the seventh-wicket pair took the sting out of the Australian attack. With each passing run, Australia’s frustration grew and the chatter became more pronounced, but through it all, and through the occasional play-and-miss, the left-right combination kept their wits about them.

Jadeja pushed Lyon to the off for a single that brought out the trademark sword dance; Australia must have been seething, but they could do nothing about it.

Immediately thereafter, he was struck on his helmet off his shoulder off a short Cummins ball, but responded with a four and a top-edged six off pulls until Cummins went round the sticks and forced him to edge a drive onto the stumps. It triggered a rush of wickets as the last four went down for the addition of just 15; Smith held two outstanding catches in the slips, Cummins accounted for Saha with a snorter and Lyon dismissed Kuldeep for his fifth wicket of the innings.

Australia knew they had a job on their hands when they came out to bat a second time. It wasn’t a job that was allowed to be well done. India will feel the Border-Gavaskar Trophy is now well within their reach.

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