New Delhi: Australian offspinner Nathan Lyon grabbed his third five-wicket haul on day two of the fourth Test against India to restrict the hosts to 266 for 8 at stumps. Although India have taken a lead of four runs, for the first time in the series Australia are in a position to challenge the hosts' dominance and end an otherwise catastrophic series on a positive note.
Ojha's 100-wicket oeuvre:
Generally, the term 'nervous nineties' is associated with the batsmen but Indian's left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha must have experienced the same emotions in the last couple of months. His tally of wickets stood at 95 in 20 matches after the Test series against England and he was expected to notch up the 100-wicket landmark in the first Test against Australia. But as fate would have it, he was, surprisingly, not picked in the playing XI for the first two Tests of the series.
At Mohali, Ojha snapped up four wickets and reached 99. But on day one of the Delhi Test, he failed to claim even one. He bowled 'fast', which is in sharp contrast to his natural style, with 'slow' returns. While Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin bagged wickets, Ojha was left to wait endlessly. On day two, he finally dismissed the last Australian batsman James Pattinson to reach the milestone. He had gone without a wicket for 34 overs before snaring the 100th scalp. So, 99 is not just a batsmen's nemesis; bowlers too feel the pinch.
Cheteshwar Pujara has been in superb form since he made a comeback to Test cricket after recovering from a knee injury last year against New Zealand. His fine technique is being hailed by a lot of cricket experts and earned him comparison with Rahul Dravid. But the 'Saurashtra Symphony' has one discordant note to iron out. Pujara has had some anxious moments against offspinners who got the better of him on several occasions.
On Saturday, he played some sparkling shots and raced to 52 before he was undone by an offspinner once again. Bowling his fourth over, Nathan Lyon got one to pitch on off stump, hold its line and deceive the batsman, who played for the turn. The ball pegged the off stump back. In his short Test career, this was the eighth time that Pujara was nipped out by an offspinner.
Jeetan Patel and Graeme Swann had capitalised on Pujara's tendency to go down the wrong line to deliveries that land on off stump and don't turn sharply. Given his intensity and diligence towards the craft, one hopes that the 25-year-old soon resolves this minor technical glitch.
DRS: Dismissal Resistor for Sachin:
Sachin Tendulkar has had his share of run-ins with the controversial Decision Review System (DRS). On Saturday, he was mighty fortunate to survive by the lack of it. In the 32nd over of the Indian innings, Tendulkar, who was batting on 1, tried to sweep a delivery from Lyon which was full and pitched on middle stump. He failed to connect the ball as it hit him on the pads right in front of the wickets. The Australians appealed in unison but umpire Richard Kettleborough was unmoved. Tendulkar was plumb lbw and what would have been a straightforward dismissal was scuppered by an error of judgment by the umpire.
After warming the bench for more than a year, Ajinkya Rahane, who is fondly called 'Jinks' by MS Dhoni, finally got a chance to make his Test debut. However, he failed to make an impact and made just 7. Rahane received his Test cap from offspinner Harbhajan Singh and his first dismissal in the longer format is also attributed to an offspinner. Rahane seemed a tad nervous during his innings and got out to a ball which was floated up and pitched on middle stump. It turned into him and bounced a bit more than he anticipated. Rahane tried to tuck it behind square but gloved it to the fielder.
Nathan the Lyon-hearted:
Lyon was easily the player of the day. He snaffled his third five-wicket haul in Test matches and put Australia in a position for the first time in the series where they can think of winning the Test. He got the ball to drift and deployed subtle variations in his pace, flight and length to stifle the Indian batsmen. He used the flattery trajectory to good use to deceive the opposition batsmen. The 25-year-old offspinner prised out Pujara, Virat Kohi, Tendulkar, Rahane and Ashwin. Had Steven Smith not spilled a catch off Dhoni, he would have got another wicket.
Pujara was hoodwinked by a straighter one which was well-flighted, while Kohli was done in by a full and flat delivery on middle stump as he played across the line. Tendulkar has a torturous time against Lyon and survived a string of close lbw appeals before finally adjudged out. In the last over of the day, Lyon winkled out Ashwin who played back to a ball which skidded through after pitching on off stump and was spinning enough to convince Aleem Dar to rule the decision in bowler's favour.