Hussey and Chawla star on tense day
It was a day of contrasting halves. The Australians lost five wickets for 27 runs in the morning session before Michael Hussey and Stuart Clark defied the Board President's XI for more than 40 overs and added 96 runs for the final wicket to save the follow-on. Piyush Chawla and Pragyan Ojha threatened to trample them but the last-wicket partnership allowed the tourists to reduce the first-innings deficit to 141. Brett Lee and Clark bowled probing spells to pick up two quick wickets before Wasim Jaffer and Yuvraj Singh began the repair work with an unbroken 75-run partnership.
Hussey and Clark ensured another valuable match-day's practice was not wasted. Hussey's ability to read the variations allowed him to play the ball late and he got into comfortable positions with precise footwork to execute the sweep and the cut. He scored 95 of his 126 runs square of the pitch.
Clark, the batsman, was a surprise. He used his height to lean forward and smother the spin on a slowing pitch. After growing in confidence, he even struck Chawla and Ojha for straight sixes. His resistance prompted Yuvraj to take the new ball but the fast bowlers couldn't separate the pair either. Yuvraj brought himself on and Clark was eventually caught at midwicket.
The application with which Hussey and Clark batted was lacking earlier in the day when the Australians' struggle against spin continued. It took Ojha four balls to remove Brad Haddin, who used his feet effectively against the spinners last evening. Haddin had attempted to charge Ojha's third ball but changed his mind. Sensing he might try it again, Ojha shortened the length and turned the ball away from the right-hander, leaving Haddin stranded outside his crease. In his next over Ojha skidded one through to Jason Krejza and induced an edge to first slip.
Irfan Pathan, who opened the bowling, was taken out of the attack as Yuvraj deployed spinners at both ends. Chawla beat Lee's attempted sweep with a full ball in his first over and later broke Mitchell Johnson's resistance with a googly delivered from round the stumps. He completed his five-for with another googly, which won him an lbw verdict even though the ball struck Peter Siddle outside the line of off stump. The Australians were struggling at 218 for 9 but Hussey and Clark slowly took them out of trouble.
The Indians too got off to a shaky start. Aakash Chopra couldn't escape a shooter from Clark and S Badrinath edged an attempted upper cut. The pitch too had begun to change character in the last session. Clark welcomed Badrinath with a nasty lifter from short of a length after Chopra was done in by the lack of bounce from the same spot. Badrinath, who was guilty of going into a shell in his recent failures, started promisingly today. He was tested with bouncers and full deliveries but he coped well and even hit a pleasing square drive and a straight drive for fours. However, he fell trying to guide a Lee lifter over slips.
Jaffer and Yuvraj too were beaten a few times but they managed to get over that phase by playing as close to the body as possible. Both resisted their natural urge to drive and accumulated a majority of their runs behind square. Though both helped themselves to couple of boundaries against Michael Clarke they were patient against Krejza. It was, after all, the mantra that allowed the Australians to get out of jail in the morning.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo