India regained much of the ground by claiming four wickets in the final session as Australia failed to capitalise on a century partnership for the opening wicket in the third and penultimate cricket Test here today.

At stumps on the second day, Australia were 273 for seven with comeback man, Steven Smith and Mitchell Starc, batting on 58 and 20 respectively.

While Ravindra Jadeja proved to be the surprise package for India with three wickets, including two in two deliveries, it was Ishant Sharma’s late burst that pushed Australia on the backfoot after Ed Cowan and David Warner were back on track with a 139-run partnership for the first wicket after Michael Clarke opted to bat.

His flagging career on the line after a string of failures, Cowan silenced the doubting Thomases with a dogged knock of 86, which consumed 238 balls. His partner, Warner made a fluent 71 off 147 balls with help of nine fours. Cowan found the fence eight times, but was disappointed at not being able to convert his efforts into a century, despite getting two lives.

The duo’s efforts, though, were a bit undone with the loss of seven wickets in the final two sessions of play.

Ishant had Brad Haddin and Moises Henriques bowled to reduce Australia to 244 for six late into the final session of play at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, where the first day was washed out due to a heavy downpour.

Jadeja returned and immediately had Peter Siddle trapped in front of the wicket.

Making a comeback after more than two years in the wilderness, Smith stood firm and showed the right mix of aggression and resolve against the Indian spinners.

After Cowan departed, caught by Virat Kohli off Ravichandran Ashwin at first slip, it was left to Smith to ensure that Australia carry on the fight in this must-win game.

Smith, the 23-year-old from New South Wales, did his job admirably, adding crucial runs with Brad Haddin for the fifth wicket, which frustrated the Indians for a while before Sharma opened the floodgates.

In the second session, Jadeja got the wickets of Warner and Clarke for nought while Pragyan Ojha accounted for Phillip Hughes, as Australia reached 180 for three at tea.

Cowan was batting on 76, while Steven Smith was unbeaten on 19, helping Australia add 71 runs in the second session as they went into tea.

The Cowan-Warner stand, incidentally, is also Australia’s best partnership for the opening wicket on this ground, eclipsing the 87-run stand set by Shane Watson and Simon Katich back in 2010.

After having Warner caught by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who ran forward after the ball looped off the batsman’s bat-pad, Jadeja bagged the most important wicket of skipper Clarke, who was stumped by Dhoni off the first ball the batsman faced.

The ball turned away sharply on landing, and an over-confident Clarke made the mistake by stepping out straightaway.

Twelve overs later, Ojha had Hughes caught down the leg-side by Dhoni, ending the out-of-form batsman’s yet another miserable stay at the crease.

Hughes, in the series, has scored no more than a mere two runs off 70 balls against the spinners while getting out five times.

India could have added one more to the wickets tally, but Virat Kohli at first slip dropped an edge that Ojha induced off Cowan.

Warner struck nine fours while facing 147 balls. What was also important was that the opener spent 206 minutes in the middle after a run of poor scores.

It turned out to be good session for Jadeja, who delivered after the specialist bowlers failed to give the hosts a breakthrough.

(This article was published on March 15, 2013)
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