Ravindra Jadeja proved to be the surprise package for India with two wickets off successive balls to disturb Australia's momentum after a solid opening-wicket century partnership in the third and penultimate cricket Test, here today.
Jadeja got the wickets of David Warner (71) and skipper Michael Clarke for nought while Pragyan Ojha accounted for Phillip Hughes (2), as Australia reached 180 for three at tea on the second day of the match at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, where the opening day was washed out due to a heavy downpour.
After his 139-run opening wicket partnership with Warner, Ed Cowan was batting on 76 – his best score against India, while Steven Smith was unbeaten on 19. Cowan hit eight fours in his unbeaten knock that came off 218 balls.
This, incidentally, is also Australia's best partnership for the first 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 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.
India could have added one more wicket to the 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.
That India struggled prior to that was only due to Watson and Ed Cowan, who produced Australia's best opening partnership of the series as the visitors went to lunch at an impressive 109 for no loss.
Warner led Australia's promising start with a flurry of boundaries, including a few delectable drives through the off-side. At the lunch break, Cowan was giving him company on 43 after 36 overs had been bowled.
There was a chance for Ojha to dismiss Warner right after he completed his fifty, but Kohli, positioned at first slip, could not get to the ball.
Opting to bat after Clarke won the toss for the third time in the series, Australia were served well by the two openers, even as the Indian bowlers looked for wickets on a surface that is likely to assist the spinners over the next few days.
It was a departure from the norm as far as the wicket was concerned – the PCA is well-documented for assisting the quicker bowlers.
Seeking to make a fightback after two reverses in the first two Tests in Chennai and Hyderabad respectively, the two wickets off successive balls put the brakes on the Aussies.
After a four-over first spell, Ishant, playing his 50th Test, was replaced by Ashwin in the ninth over, and the off-spinner straightway extracted turn and bounce.
Bringing Ishant back, instead of Ojha, for another six-over spell, however, seemed a bit surprising. When Ojha was finally introduced in the 25th over, in place of Ishant, the left-arm spinner was greeted with two boundaries – one through the covers off a short ball and the next one nudged down the leg-side.
With his four specialist bowlers used within the 30th over, Jadeja was introduced in place of Ashwin.
It was surprising to see Jadeja given a more attacking field than the two specialist spinners -- with a leg-slip in place alongside the first slip and the short-leg fielder -- but the all-rounder lived upto his skipper's expectation.
Earlier, it turned out to be Shikhar Dhawan's greatest moment of his cricket career as the 27-year-old left-hander from Delhi was handed his maiden Test cap by none other than the great Sachin Tendulkar.
India made two changes to the squad, bringing in Ojha in place of Harbhajan Singh and Dhawan for the dropped Virender Sehwag.
Australia brought in Brad Haddin, Mitchell Starc, Steven Smith and Nathan Lyon in place of the injured Matthew Wade and suspended James Pattinson, Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell.