Mohali: From 139 for 0 - their best start all tour - Australia were pulled back to 273 for 7 by stumps on a long second day at the PCA Stadium. Once again it was spin that produced most of the wickets, with Ravindra Jadeja excelling with 3 for 56 before Ishant Sharma ensured pace had a say with a double-wicket over late in the day. Of the nine Australians to spend time at the crease on a clear and sunny Friday, only three managed half-centuries; Ed Cowan top-scored with 86 but that included three dropped catches by India's butterfingered close cordon.
Cowan and David Warner gave Australia their best start of the tour by seeing out the first hour and then playing India's trio of spin bowlers with confidence to more than double the total in the next 90 minutes. Warner was the more dominant partner and scored 28 of the 40 runs scored in the opening hour; Cowan scored 19 of his first 78 balls before he opened up. Following opening stands of 64, 10 and 56 so far, Warner and Cowan's fourth alliance of the series was their most productive.
Cowan followed Warner (71) to a solid half-century soon after lunch, flicking Jadeja for four, but a century stand was snapped soon after. Having extended his opening stand with Cowan to 139, their third century partnership in 27 innings together and second to the 214 they put on against India at Perth in January 2012, Warner fell on the fifth ball of the 48th over. Looking to advance against Jadeja, Warner played at the delivery hesitantly and got an inside edge which MS Dhoni ran forward to collect.
That brought in Michael Clarke at No. 3, for just the second time in his Test career, but he lasted just one ball; looking to dominate immediately, the Australian captain was beaten in flight and Dhoni was swift to react. In consecutive deliveries, Jadeja had stunned the Australians.
Phillip Hughes, only playing this Test because of Usman Khawaja's removal from the squad, walked out at 139 for 2 and looked at sea against spin once again. It took him 19 deliveries for his first run but he could only add score one more before he gloved Pragyan Ojha down the leg side. It was Hughes' fifth consecutive dismissal to spin.
Cowan at this time was on 66 and combined with Steven Smith to see off the rest of the session. While Cowan's was a determined, stubborn innings it was not chanceless. On 35, he got a thick edge off Ojha that flew past Virat Kohli at slip for four; on 64 an edge off Ojha hit Dhoni's pads and deflected to slip where Kohli dropped an overhead catch. Cheteshwar Pujara fluffed India's fourth chance of the day when he failed to hold onto a straightforward edge off Cowan's bat at silly point, but the drop did not cost much. One run later, R Ashwin produced the edge in his next over and Kohli finally held onto a catch at slip.
A 46-run partnership between Smith and Brad Haddin (21) followed, before Ishant Sharma struck in an excellent 94th over. Haddin dragged the first ball onto his stumps going for a dab to third man, and the third went straight through Moises Henriques. That double-wicket maiden left Australia at 244 for 6.
Peter Siddle became Jadeja's third wicket in the first bonus over of the day, and at stumps the Australians were hoping that Smith (58*) would carry on his fine innings. Smith, playing his first Test since early 2011, batted very well and was especially good against spin. His innings ensured Australia did not fold, but he will hope that he gets support from Mitchell Starc (20*).