Johnson fires away brittle India

Cricket Second Test:: Pacer brushes aside visitors' top order to set up Australia's four-wicket win

Johnson fires away brittle India

A familiar batting collapse came back to haunt India once again as Australia took an unbeatable 2-0 lead after a fighting four-wicket win on the fourth day of the second Test.

Despite allowing the Australian tail to build a 97-run lead on Friday, India remained in the game finishing the third day on a healthy 71 for one and looking good for a competitive total. If an injury scare to overnight batsman Shikhar Dhawan before the start of Saturday’s play wasn’t bad enough, India lost four wickets in the space of 20 balls for 11 runs as Mitchell Johnson (4/61) turned on the heat on a relatively cool day here at the Gabba.

After a rare gritty show by the tailenders, and with no little help from Dhawan, India managed to post a respectable 224 all out, setting Australia a target of 128. The hosts, however, made heavy weather of the small target as they lost six wickets while reaching 130 in the post-tea session, giving themselves an extra day’s rest. Ishant Sharma (3/38) appeared to have given India an outside chance by firing out the dangerous David Warner and Shane Watson early, but with no real score board pressure on their batsmen Australia coasted to a victory.

Chris Rogers (55, 57b, 10x4) batted freely for his second half-century of the match. But had Virat Kohli snapped a straight forward chance of Steven Smith (28) at slip with Australia still short of more than half the required number of runs for victory, there could have been a twist in the tale but that’s a big if. India had effectively lost the match in the little passage of time in the first session when Johnson, for the first time in the series, lived up to his fiery reputation. He was fast, menacing and the consequences were disastrous for India.

The left-armer had Kohli cramped for space and the cut crashed on to the stumps as the day got off to the worst possible start for India. Ajinkya Rahane then couldn’t keep a chest-high delivery down and was caught at gully while Rohit Sharma was forced to feather a rising ball for Brad Haddin to complete the eighth of his nine catches for the match. In the most hostile spell (4-1-14-3) that he has bowled in the series yet, Johnson had firmly put Australia on path to victory.

Josh Hazlewood then got into the act and won a leg-before verdict against a shuffling MS Dhoni as India were left reeling at 86 for five in the space of 6.2 overs after resuming the day’s play at 71 for one. Even before many viewers back home could turn on their TV sets, India had lost their top half. Since the Auckland meltdown in January, this is the 12th time this year that the Indian batting has imploded without as much of a sign.

Kohli had to resume India’s innings as Dhawan had hurt his right wrist after being hit by a ball while batting on practice pitches, which India claimed had worn out. Kohli, as Dhoni pointed later, had received less than 10 minutes of notice to pad up and he didn’t look mentally ready to go out in the middle. It upset the whole batting order but that’s hardly any excuse for a few moments of madness in the first session. The pitch presumably was a lot better to bowl, especially with the cracks having widened; a bit of sensible batting and a few more runs on the board could have put Australia under pressure.

R Ashwin knuckled down and was reviving the innings when he was wrongly adjudged caught-behind by umpire Ian Gould, snapping a 30-run association with Cheteshwar Pujara (44) who was one of the few saving graces for India on the day. Pujara’s resistance ended when he pushed at a Hazlewood delivery that was angled into him but the steep bounce ballooned off the shoulder of the bat to the point fielder.    

With an injured Dhawan (81) being the last recognised batsman, the end appeared near but the southpaw batted with rare calm and maturity to prolong the inevitable. He farmed the strike with Umesh Yadav to add 60 runs for the eighth wicket. The southpaw, for whom it was the first half-century in 11 innings, showed few signs discomfort during his stay. He pulled, cut and swept hardly wincing or grimacing, leaving one wondering why didn’t he come out to bat first thing in the morning? 

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