Man who did nearly everything


Tea was around the corner and Ravichandran Ashwin, at covers, was giving rest to his tired fingers that until then had bowled 20 overs, taken all five wickets to fall and suffered a minor bruise while fielding. Harbhajan Singh, wicketless, was in attack, running in to bowl with his back to the Wallajah Road, the end that that had given Ashwin all his scalps. Australia skipper Michael Clarke and debutant Moises Henriques, looking solid, had taken Australia past 200. The visitors moved on from 153/5 — an improvement, but certainly not a recovery.

As most captains do at the end of the session, MS Dhoni pulled out his best punch one last time before the break. He got Ashwin back from the Wallajah End. The Chennai boy, like he had done so many times all morning, threw up the ball on Clarke's off-stump. The perfect pivot and his heavy tweak made the ball to drift, bounce and spin a bit too much off the dusty surface. While taking off, it was to take the edge of Clarke's bat, brush his pads and get planted in Cheteshwar Pujara's hands at forward short leg.

The crouched cordon around the foxed batsman rose in celebration. Some had seen the ball kiss Clarke's willow, others had heard it. But the man, about 20 yards away and perfectly placed to make the judgement, umpire Kumar Dharmasena, wasn't convinced. Clarke, 39 at that time, and Australia, 206/5, were enjoying an exceptional stroke of luck.

Many misses

Ashwin would have felt cheated, interestingly, not the only time on this day of several highs. His third ball of the day saw Virender Sehwag dropping Australian opener David Warner at first slip. In the next over, Dhoni missed stumping the same batsman. Besides, all through the day there were mistimed strokes that fell precariously close to the fielders or edges that just missed the stumps. But more than any fumbled catches and the wasted half chances, it was the Dharmasena blooper that hurt India the most.

... contd.

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