It is not often that India go into the last day without relying on R Ashwin to provide them the breakthroughs. Australia went through almost the entire first session of the third Test without facing the offspinner on a pitch where Ravindra Jadeja was getting the ball to turn spitefully.
And for the first hour and a half it seemed that Matt Renshaw and Steve Smith would be able to take Australia to a position of comfort by the break. India started with pace at one end, and Jadeja at the other. Neither Smith, nor Renshaw faced too many moments of concern.
The effect of the roller was slowly wearing off, but when Ishant Sharma was brought into the attack, Smith had to only leave the balls outside the offstump to stay at the crease. With Jadeja’s threat being staved off at the other end by Renshaw, Smith was facing a volley of balls from Ishant, at the other end, which were testing only the collecting abilities of Saha. That was the story for the first four overs of Ishant’s spell, in which he conceded 13 runs without a wicket.
In his fifth over, he had a chance to start bowling to the left-hander Renshaw. There was a bit of needle that got Ishant angry. Renshaw pulled away once as Ishant was running in, Smith had a few words and somehow Ishant found himself pushing harder. Renshaw was threatened with a couple of short balls, a short leg was brought in indicating a change of plan. But the double-bluff was what caused the wicket. Renshaw was caught hanging back by the angry fast bowler act while Ishant had the sense about him to push one full on the stumps. Renshaw was struck plumb in front ending a long vigil that was putting Australia in a position of comfort.
The momentum shifted entirely towards India in the very next over, when the usually reliable Steve Smith misjudged a leave against Jadeja. Offering only pad, he missed the ball only to see it crash into offstump.
Australia managed 60 runs in the session but still trail by 69 with six wickets in hand. The second session ought to see a lot more of Ashwin as well. But so far, the fifth day has gone India’s way.
Brief Scores: Australia 451 & 83/4 (Steve Smith 21; Ravindra Jadeja 3-22) trail India 603/9 by 69 runs