Warner hundred deflates India

Warner hundred deflates India

After maintaining a 'friendly spirit' for almost four days, the hostility that was conspicuous by its absence returned to spice up the India-Australia contest as the first Test enters Saturday’s fifth and final day.

In tune with the mournful mood of the nation following Phillip Hughes’ death, both Indian and Australian cricketers had put a deliberate lid on their aggressive instincts ensuring incident-free first three and half days. But it appeared they could do so only so long.

First things first though. After another day of interesting battle between bat and ball, Australia came out on top from where they can realistically hope for a win now. At close of an extended fourth day’s play, Australia reached 290 for five from 69 overs for an overall lead of 363 after packing off India for 444 in 116.4 overs here at the Adeaide Oval on Friday. David Warner (102, 269m, 166b, 11x4, 1x6) cracked his second century of the match to foil India’s hopes of putting the hosts on the defensive.  

India, overnight 369/5, added 75 more runs to that total, conceding a handy 73-run lead. Rohit Sharma was out after adding only 10 runs to his bed-time score while Wriddhiman Saha couldn’t hang around for far too long. It was only because of Mohammad Shami’s 24-ball 34 (3x4, 1x6) that India could narrow the deficit to what could be termed less-than dangerous.    

Nathan Lyon (5/134) got just rewards for his relentless accuracy. The 27-year-old claimed three of the five Indian wickets to fall on the day to become the first Australian spinner in 40 years to claim a five-wicket haul against India at home after Bob Simpson in 1968. The off-spinner, a former pitch curator, exploited the rough on the Cathedral End quite beautifully to put the Indian batsmen in doubt.   

India can rest assured that Australia will declare first thing up on the final morning and go for the jugular. With the pitch expected to crumble further, Lyon will again pose a big threat but before that they will have to negotiate the pace trio of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and a fit-again Peter Siddle who will be fired-up after what transpired in the middle between rival players. 

With Australia cruising along in the second innings, Virat Kohli finally brought in Varun Aaron in the 34th over of the innings. Getting the ball to reverse at high speed, the paceman had Warner and Shane Watson in some sort of trouble. He cleaned up Warner when the batsman was on 66 and followed the dismissal with a loud shout of “come on.” It wasn’t a send-off but just a celebration.

Upon checking for no-ball, Warner was recalled as Aaron had overstepped and this time the batsman returned the compliment to the bowler while returning to the crease. Warner kept going on at Aaron and soon Shikhar Dhawan was having a go at the Australian. Umpires stepped in and Kohli played the peacemaker even as the crowd got behind the home players.

Warner later was given not out when he gloved Aaron behind to Saha on 70. His luck continued when he was put down at slip on 89 by M Vijay. The burgeoning lead, the hot conditions and the misfortune appeared to have got the better of Indians. Following an appeal for leg-before, Rohit confronted Steven Smith and this time Kohli sided with his team-mate and once again the crowd began to boo the Indians, perhaps setting the template for the rest of the series.

The Indians, though, at the moment will have an immediate task of saving the match after their bowlers’ tough workout on the field. While a fortuitous Warner held one end up playing an uncharacteristically waiting innings, Smith (52 n.o., 64b, 5x4) and Mitchell Marsh (40, 26b, 4x4, 3x6) provided the much-needed flourish towards the close. One expected Australia to insert India for five-six overs but the declaration never came. They will have a minimum of 98 overs to dismiss India and a certain Lyon will be the key. Did India then commit a big blunder by dropping R Ashwin?

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