India pull level after Ashwin six-for 41

Umesh Yadav (2 for 30) and R Ashwin (6 for 41) bowled India to a famous, series-leveling 75-run victory on the fourth day of the second Test at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, after the highest partnership of the series (118) between Cheteshwar Pujara (92) and Ajinkya Rahane (54) had given the bowlers a challenging target to defend on Tuesday (March 7). With Josh Hazlewood taking a career-best 6 for 67, and Mitchell Starc producing a couple of thunderbolts, Australia had taken the last six Indian wickets for just 36 runs, but their pursuit of 188 on a capricious pitch was doomed the minute Steven Smith, captain and talisman, was trapped in front by a grubber from Umesh.

 

The chase had begun with plenty of intent. Matt Renshaw edged Ishant Sharma through the slips for four, and with four byes conceded in each of Ashwin’s first two overs, the scoreboard was up and running. But on an up-and-down pitch, it didn’t take long for something to happen.

Renshaw was first to fall, getting the glove to an Ishant delivery that kicked up at him. Smith survived a loud appeal, on height, the first ball he faced, but was quickly into his stride, smearing Ashwin through midwicket for four.

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With a left-right combination at the crease, runs came quickly, and Warner cleared his feet to loft Ashwin over long-on for six. Having bowled over the wicket till then, Ashwin went round, and the first ball saw Warner miss a sweep. Given out on the field, Warner went for a review, only to find umpire’s call upheld on both point of impact and ball-tracking (42 for 2).

Smith was on 12 when he edged Umesh to Virat Kohli’s left at slip. He couldn’t hold on, and his opposite number got four. With Shaun Marsh stroking Ashwin through the covers and Smith cutting him powerfully for four, the runs mounted and Kohli was forced to take his main strike bowler out of the attack.

After one Ravindra Jadeja over from the Northern End, Umesh came back, and there was yet another twist. Marsh offered no shot to one that kept low, Nigel Llong lifted his finger and after consulting his captain, the batsman chose not to review. Replays showed that the ball would have missed off stump by a distance.

As long as Smith was there to work the ball around, Australia had hope. But even a man of his considerable skills had no answer to an Umesh delivery that pinned him on the crease at boot height. The umpire’s finger had gone up straight away, and Smith appeared to look in the direction of the dressing room for guidance. As an incensed Kohli stepped in, Llong went to Smith and sent him on his way (74 for 4).


 


Mitchell Marsh then survived a leg-before shout from Jadeja, with the Indians losing a review on umpire’s call, and both he and Peter Handscomb then played beautiful off-drives off Umesh to keep the noisy crowd on tenterhooks.

When Ishant replaced Umesh, their sense of unease intensified, with 13 coming from his only over. With tea imminent, Kohli turned once again to Ashwin. The impact was immediate. Sharp turn and bounce saw Mitchell Marsh popping one up to short leg (101 for 5) and after Jadeja had rushed through an over an the Northern End, Matthew Wade saw one take bat and pad to the vacant short leg position. Wriddhiman Saha ran across and threw himself full length into a Superman dive to grab a quite spectacular 50th dismissal in Tests.

In Ashwin’s first over after tea, Starc played for turn that wasn’t there, and was bowled for one (103 for 7), leaving Handscomb to scrap with the tail for company. Steve O’Keefe lasted 18 minutes before Jadeja, back on at the Northern End, got the wicket his bowling had deserved, with a ball that shot through no more than six inches high (110 for 8).

Handscomb had showed both maturity and patience during his 67-ball 24, but with hope ebbing away, he fell to an ugly hoick off Ashwin that only went as far as Saha behind the stumps (110 for 9). Two balls later, Nathan Lyon chipped back a return catch that saw Ashwin finish the match with a remarkable spell of 5.4-3-9-5.

That it was going to be an eventful day was apparent with Lyon’s first ball of the day, the seventh of the morning. Rahane edged it, but it fell short of Smith at slip. O’Keefe, who had started proceedings from the Northern End, then got Pujara in a bat-pad tangle, but Handscomb was unsure whether he had taken the catch cleanly. The umpires went upstairs, and replays showed it had been taken on the bounce.

Lyon then got one to shoot through and strike Pujara on the pad. The on-field call was out, but Pujara reviewed immediately and the replays showed the ball turning too much. The new ball was taken as soon as it became available and Rahane played a lovely square-drive off Starc to bring up a 128-ball half-century.

Starc was initially wild and woolly, twice bowling wides that Wade couldn’t gather behind the stumps as the lead crept over 150. But just as Australian fans were beginning to despair, he turned the game on its head in two deliveries.

First, he swung one into Rahane’s pads. Llong gave it not out, but the Australian review confirmed that there had been no inside edge. Rahane’s 52 took 134 balls, with the fifth-wicket partnership adding an invaluable 118 (278 balls). The very next ball. Starc summoned up a 154 kph Exocet that snapped Karun Nair’s leg stump in two off an inside edge. Only an inside edge from Saha denied him a hat-trick.

Pujara then glanced Hazlewood for four to move into the 90s, but he would go no further. The next ball reared up from a length, and Pujara could only fend to Mitchell Marsh at point. He had batted nearly five hours for his 221-ball 92. India’s slump soon became four wickets in nine balls as Ashwin, who had played one peachy square drive, found his off stump pegged back by one that kept low.

Saha refused to join the procession, flailing Starc through midwicket for four and then whacking him over cover for six. But with Umesh scooping one to mid-off to give Hazlewood his sixth of the innings, the chances were that India wouldn’t even make it to lunch.

Ishant, who played a fulsome part in a famous Indian run chase in Mohali in 2010, proved a good ally for Saha, though. Saha mainly refused to take singles against the quicks, but that wasn’t the case with the spinners. When Lyon came back into the attack, in some discomfort thanks to a finger injury, Ishant swept his first ball for four.

He then survived a leg-before appeal from Hazlewood. Turned down on the field, Australia reviewed, only to be thwarted by ‘Umpire’s call’ on ball-tracking. No matter. Only a further run was added before Ishant chipped O’Keefe tamely to short cover, to set up an intriguing run chase that proved too much for Australia.

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