A most unlike Australia!

Cheteshwar Pujara... a brilliant double hundred.-Pics. K.R. DEEPAK

It was a comprehensive win for India in the Hyderabad Test against Australia. V. V. Subrahmanyam reports.

The on-going Border-Gavaskar Trophy four-Test series is fast turning out to be a Michael Clarke versus India contest if the dismal performances in the first two Tests by the Aussies are any indication.

If one hoped for an improved performance from the Clarke-led team in the second Test at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad, it turned out to be a misplaced wish as it suffered an innings defeat.

The chinks in the Aussie batting line-up were exposed by the Indian spinners, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin leading the pack in style with yet another five-wicket haul in the crucial second innings. The ever-improving left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and comeback man Harbhajan Singh complemented the offie.

That Australia failed to capitalise on a good toss in Hyderabad was a poor reflection on the batsmen to rise to the occasion after the drubbing in Chennai. This, on a pitch which even Michael Clarke rated as a very good Test wicket!

Once again, it was skipper Clarke’s classy innings (91) which helped the team attain a semblance of respect in a disappointing total of 237 for nine declared. The only one who showed the willingness to stand with the skipper was the gutsy wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade (62).

Murali Vijay ... a well-paced century.-

This, at a time when rookie medium-pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, playing only his second Test, produced a quality spell with focus on line and length rather than trying anything extra. “I just bowled wicket to wicket,” he said later.

The expectations were on the Indian spinners to put the Aussies under pressure, but it was the Uttar Pradesh boy who held the centre-stage, cleaning up the dangerous David Warner and Ed Cowan. He also trapped Shane Watson, who missed an attempted pull stroke to be hit on the back pad, leg before.

That Australia failed to drive in the advantage of a fighting stand of 145 for the fifth wicket between Clarke and Wade was another reminder that the visitors somehow fail to cope with the pressure handling probing spin in the final session of a Test in India. Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh ensured that there were no more escape routes sharing five wickets.

And, when India batted in reply, it was an object lesson in the art of scoring runs on a slow turning wicket. This despite losing a struggling Virender Sehwag early again.

Murali Vijay, with his place on the line after the twin-failure in the first Test, and Cheteshwar Pujara batted splendidly during their record-breaking stand of 370 for the second wicket. It was a partnership which was dotted with two critical phases — the early one when the intent was to play absolutely safe without losing any wicket and the subsequent one of clear dominance. That India finished the second day at 311 losing just Sehwag summed it all up.

The day also saw the Australian attack — including left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty and the costliest player in IPL 2013 Glenn Maxwell — look very ordinary. It was just clueless and often gave the impression of letting things drift and waiting for the batsmen to make mistakes.

Pujara completed his second double century in 11 Tests (in the process becoming the fastest Indian to score 1000 runs in terms of number of innings — 18 while the great Sunil Gavaskar took 21). The flamboyant Vijay with his second Test ton (interestingly, both against Australia) sent the message to those concerned that he means business and is determined to hold on to the opener’s slot. His was an authoritative display — blending caution with aggression.

On the third day, there was expectation that both Vijay and Pujara would hit double centuries. But, to the delight of the Aussie camp, off-spinner Glenn Maxwell pushed Vijay (167) on to the back-foot and got him caught in the close-in cordon.

With batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar at the other end, Pujara kept his date with a double ton and got a hug from the great man. However, soon Pujara was unable to resist the temptation to pull fast bowler James Pattinson and ended up giving a catch in the deep.

Later, Pattinson earned a third-umpire verdict for caught-behind against Sachin Tendulkar when the latter leg-glanced to be caught low down by Matthew Wade. This dismissal stunned the 30,000-strong crowd, which defied scorching heat, into silence.

These breakthroughs infused life into the Australian camp and to Clarke’s delight, debutant Maxwell and Doherty shared seven wickets to restrict India to 503 despite a typically flamboyant innings from the in-form Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But, the effort from the spinners came a bit too late in the innings and they were nowhere near the class of the English spin duo, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann!

A deficit of 266 runs is a huge psychological barrier for any team in India. And even more so for this Australian team which seems to be losing the battle of minds even before the contest begins!

But when the Aussies began the fight to stay in the match, initially it looked as if they were in the mood to script a different story. David Warner and Ed Cowan batted freely both against pace and spin in their 56-run stand.

Then, Ashwin was in the act again with a double strike — bowling in the rough to lure both Warner and the out-of-sorts Phillip Hughes to sweep round the legs into their stumps. These two dismissals clearly dented the morale of the visitors as they went into the fourth day with the monumental task of staying in the game. This was also the phase on the third day when Harbhajan Singh bowled well but without luck.

The fourth day required a combination of skills and lots of patience from the batsmen. But, the Aussies were found wanting in both areas once wicketkeeper Dhoni pulled off a diving catch to his left to send back Shane Watson off Ishant Sharma in the third over of the morning. This breakthrough opened up the gates for the Indian bowlers to spin a web of misery.

Jadeja, playing in front of a boisterous crowd and in place of local hero Pragyan Ojha, fully justified the confidence of his captain with a beauty of a ball to send back the best player of spin in this Australian team – Michael Clarke. The ball drifted in and spun away to knock back the off stump. That Clarke paused for a moment to wonder how it had happened despite looking to have covered the stumps with a defensive bat was a tribute to the efficacy of Jadeja.

This one dismissal seemed to have sowed seeds of doubts in the rest of the batsmen. For, soon it was a meek surrender as the Aussies were bowled out for 131. Ashwin completed a thoroughly deserved third five-wicket haul in the two Tests he has played in Hyderabad.

THE SCORES

Australia — 1st innings: D. Warner b Bhuvneshwar 6, E. Cowan lbw b Bhuvneshwar 4, P. Hughes c Dhoni b Ashwin 19, S. Watson lbw b Bhuvneshwar 23, M. Clarke b Jadeja 91, M. Wade c Bhuvneshwar b Harbhajan 62, M. Henriques b Jadeja 5, G. Maxwell c Dhoni b Jadeja 13, P. Siddle lbw b Harbhajan 0, J. Pattinson (not out) 1, X. Doherty (not out) 0. Extras: (b-10, lb-3) 13. Total: (for nine wickets declared) 237.

Fall of wickets: 1-10, 2-15, 3-57, 4-63, 5-208, 6-217, 7-233, 8-236, 9-236.

India bowling: Bhuvneshwar 15-2-53-3, Ishant 17-5-45-0, Ashwin 15-6-41-1, Harbhajan 22-2-52-2, Jadeja 16-4-33-3.

India — 1st innings: M. Vijay c Cowan b Maxwell 167, V. Sehwag c Wade b Siddle 6, C. Pujara c Doherty b Pattinson 204, S. Tendulkar c Wade b Pattinson 7, V. Kohli c Cowan b Maxwell 34, M. S. Dhoni c Doherty b Maxwell 44, R. Jadeja c & b Maxwell 10, R. Ashwin c Hughes b Doherty 1, Harbhajan Singh c Maxwell b Doherty 0, B. Kumar st. Wade b Doherty 10, I. Sharma (not out) 2. Extras: (b-1, lb-13, w-4) 18. Total: 503.

Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-387, 3-393, 4-404, 5-460, 6-484, 7-485, 8-489, 9-491.

Australia bowling: Pattinson 29-11-80-2, Siddle 31-6-92-1, Henriques 21-7-45-0, Doherty 46.1-15-131-3, Maxwell 26-2-127-4, Warner 1-0-14-0.

Australia — 2nd innings: E. Cowan c Sehwag b Jadeja 44, D. Warner b Ashwin 26, P. Hughes b Ashwin 0, S. Watson c Dhoni b Ishant 9, M. Clarke b Jadeja 16, M. Wade c Sehwag b Ashwin 10, M. Henriques (run out) 0, G. Maxwell lbw b Ashwin 8, P. Siddle c Kohli b Jadeja 4, J. Pattinson lbw b Ashwin 0, X. Doherty (not out) 1. Extras: (b-7, lb-6) 13. Total: 131.

Fall of wickets: 1-56, 2-56, 3-75, 4-108, 5-111, 6-111, 7-123, 8-130, 9-130.

India bowling: Bhuvneshwar 6-4-7-0, Aswin 28-12-63-5, Harbhajan 10-7-10-0, Jadeja 18-8-33-3, Ishant 5-2-5-1.