New Delhi: Australia's trial by spin continued into the first day of the fourth Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla, where they lost six wickets to slow bowling on an already cracking surface to finish on 231 for 8. Nine-five of those runs came through stubborn resistance from the eighth and ninth wickets, and top-scoring for Australia was their No. 9 Peter Siddle with a Test-best 47 not out.
The day was divided into three contrasting sessions. Australia took lunch at 94 for 2 and then lost five wickets for 59 runs in 39 overs during the afternoon, but in the last two hours found an unlikely hero in Siddle, who resisted 125 deliveries and was supported by James Pattinson who helped add 42.
India's spinners, in particular R Ashwin (30-17-40-4) and Ravindra Jadeja (22-6-34-2), relentlessly plugged away to keep run-scoring to a drip. Australia's lack of partnerships was telling: they went from 106 for 2 to 136 for 7 and needed a 53-run stand in 164 deliveries to get them close to 200. Steven Smith's 46 was crucial and without Siddle's appreciable stonewalling they would have been bowled out for much less. On a square-turning pitch which prompted close inspection from players on both sides during the lunch and tea intervals, India have moved ahead despite having lost the toss and will fancy their chances of a first 4-0 whitewash ever.
The session which turned the tide India's way was the second, which started with Ashwin and Jadeja grabbing three wickets inside the first 45 minutes. As has happened so often in the series, Australia's batsmen found ways to make India's spinners appear more dangerous than they actually were. Less than 20 minutes after play resumed, Ed Cowan (38) missed a sweep at Ashwin and was bowled around the legs. Shane Watson (17) skipped out to Jadeja in his second over and was beaten for turn, Glenn Maxwell (10) skipped out and chipped Jadeja to mid-on, and Mitchell Johnson (3) opted to shoulder arms to an Ashwin carom ball. The only batsman who was wronged was Matthew Wade, incorrectly ruled out caught bat-pad to Ashwin for 2 when replays showed there was no contact with his bat.
Both Ashwin and Jadeja stifled runs and produced plenty of appeals and faulty shots. From the time Johnson was bowled - he had to ask the square-leg umpire what his mode of dismissal was - until tea was taken, Smith and Siddle scored just 17 runs in 13 overs.
Post-lunch, the pair collected their runs sensibly, largely through singles either driven of edged square of the wicket. There were some near unplayable deliveries, particularly from Jadeja, but Siddle and Smith hung on through levelheaded batting and obdurately and painstakingly hauled Australia past 150. The eight-wicket stand had reached 53 in more than 27 overs when Ashwin struck, getting Smith to inside-edge a catch to debutant Ajinkya Rahane at short leg.
Ashwin should have had his fifth soon after, but Pattinson was let off by umpire Richard Kettleborough. Siddle proved tough to dislodge and hung on until stumps. A cracking cover-drive for four took him to 42 - and the longest he has ever batted in Tests - and the glance to fine leg next ball have him his highest score. Pattinson was on 11 off 57 deliveries.
If spin dominated the afternoon session, then it was Ishant Sharma who starred in the morning. On a lively first-day Kotla track, Ishant provided both of India's wickets as Australia took lunch at 94 for 2. David Warner nicked to second slip in Ishant's first over, and when he was recalled for a second spell Ishant snapped a 67-run stand between Phillip Hughes and Cowan. Brought back to bowl the 21st over, Ishant produced a brute of a delivery that crashed into Hughes' helmet, and on the last delivery the batsman dragged onto his stumps.