India inches closer to series win

Ashwin, Jadeja, Umesh claim three wickets apiece to help the host fight back in the final Test. India, now, needs 87 runs more to clinch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Umesh Yadav celebrates the dismissal of Nathan Lyon in Dharamsala on Monday.   -  Reuters

The Indian bowlers shared the spoils and ensured that the host has a modest target to achieve on the fourth day of the fourth Test and clinch the series at the HPCA stadium here. Monday, the third day, saw India gain a first innings lead of just 32 before the exploits of Umesh Yadav, R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja left the Australian batting embarrassed — they were bundled out for 137 in their second essay.

Full scorecard and ball-by-ball details

At close of play, openers K.L. Rahul and M. Vijay had negotiated six overs to whittle away 19 of the 106 needed for victory.

A disappointing turnout saw India dominate even as Australia failed to come to terms with the splendid pace and spin combination that the host employed after adding 84 to the overnight score. Ravindra Jadeja and Wriddhiman Saha countered the Australians stoutly to add 96 for the seventh wicket.

SLIDESHOW: Best moments from Day 3

The Jadeja-Saha association was compelling and took away the advantage that Australia had forged on the second evening through off-spinner Nathan Lyon’s four-wicket strike (Lyon had extracted turn and bounce, but that only added to the confidence of the Indian attack later on). It was a remarkably constructed knock from Jadeja that put India in a position of strength on a pitch which increasingly demanded the best from the batsmen.

The best approach

The contest was as intense as in the previous three Tests. Jadeja adopted the best approach, clouting the balls that fell within his range, his four sixes picked clean and hard. His half century tilted the balance India’s way because run-making was bound to become an arduous exercise on the two-paced surface.

READ: Smith loses his cool, targets Vijay

The famed Australian spirit to counter challenges was on test. The stage was set for David Warner to sign off the series on a bright note but the stocky left-hander was abysmally clueless at the crease. Dropped by Karun Nair at third slip off Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Warner’s misery ended after he offered Saha a catch and Australia once again suffered from a poor start.

Umesh Yadav, inspired by Warner’s wicket, hurt Australia again with Matt Renshaw’s scalp, the batsman fending a well-directed short ball.

But it was Steve Smith’s wicket — interspersed between Warner and Renshaw coming to grief against Umesh — that sent a wave of celebration in the Indian ranks.

READ: Sir Jadeja lords it over with all-round performance

There was no trace of pressure in Smith’s approach as he picked on Bhuvneshwar to establish quick supremacy. He carted the medium pacer for two boundaries but Smith’s focus on getting past the psychological hurdle of the first innings lead, even if meagre, invited trouble when he dragged the ball onto the stumps from an intended pull.

It was time to celebrate for the Indians, and understandable too, since Smith, with 499 runs in the series, was the batsman to snare.

Astonishing collapse

Given Australia’s shaky record against spinners, it was a welcome opening for the Indians. The pacers had accounted for the three batsmen who mattered and now the spinners got into the act as Australia lost the last seven wickets for 106 runs in an astonishing collapse triggered by Peter Handscomb falling to a nasty one from off-spinner Ashwin.

The batsman was stunned by the bounce and the superb reflex catch by Ajinkya Rahane at slip. It was a crucial wicket because it created insurmountable pressure on the Australian batsmen who failed to read the bowlers on a deteriorating pitch.

Reeling under self-doubt, Australia’s middle order succumbed to the demands of tackling the turn and bounce. Barring Mathew Wade, undefeated on 25, none from the Australian camp had the skills to take on the bowlers and Glenn Maxwell getting out without offering a shot only confirmed that they were unable to pick the line. Ashwin and Jadeja thrived by attacking the stumps and put their team on a winning course, unless, Australia pulls off a miracle.