Shane Watson became Australia's 44th Test captain after Michael Clarke failed to prove his fitness but he is going to have his work cut out after India took the honours on the opening day of the fourth and final match in Delhi.
Watson at least won the toss but watched as a string of batsmen came and went and the tourists, already 3-0 down in the series, closed on 231 for eight.
India handed a debut to Ajinkya Rahane, in the side as a replacement for the injured Shikhar Dhawan, while Australia made the changes due to the injury to Clarke and the return to the side of Watson and James Pattinson after their one-game suspension.
Mitchell Johnson and Glenn Maxwell also returned to strengthen the batting, although neither offered much resistance as India, through Ravichandran Ashwin(4-40), Ishant Sharma (2-35) and Ravindra Jadeja (2-34), held sway.
Watson came in for Clarke who sits out this match due to a recurring back injury and lso out of this Test were Xavier Doherty, Mitchell Starc, Brad Haddin and Moises Henriques, with Matthew Wade, Maxwell, Johnson and Pattinson coming in.
The pitch turned out to be a traditional Kotla pitch, with some turn from day one itself. More than that though it was the bounce that troubled batsmen, with odd balls keeping low and some others bouncing too much. There were open cracks visible on the surface and it wasn’t a huge surprise that Australia were struggling despite a decent start to the day.
Ishant Sharma was the first one to draw blood, inducing an edge off David Warner (4) as India were off to a great start. Ed Cowan and Phil Hughes then held off the new ball bowlers further as they built a solid partnership, studded with boundaries.
Hughes scored 45 runs off 59 balls, inclusive of 10 boundaries, and it was apparent that he was carrying on from where he left off in Mohali. However, then the pitch got to him. He was hit on the grille of his helmet by a snorter from Ishant and then shortly afterwards was bowled, playing on.
Australia took lunch at 94 for two, a happy start, but as always things went downhill for them from there onwards. Cowan (38) was bowled round his legs by Ashwin, who kicked into top gear immediately after the break. Skipper Watson (17) seemed to be living on borrowed time, for he was lucky to be adjudged not out off a stumping chance in Pragyan Ojha’s first spell of the morning.
He didn’t seem to mind that and continued risking his wicket. Perhaps it was his natural style that asked him to do so, even so, it let to his downfall as he was out stumped to Jadeja.
Two overs later, Ashwin removed Matthew Wade (2), even though there was a bad umpire error therein. Australia though were lingering at 117 for five, staring at another collapse. It seemed imminent as Glenn Maxwell (10) too departed trying to play a false stroke, gifting another wicket to Jadeja.
Then Mitchell Johnson, (3) playing his first match in the series, was foxed off a brilliant carrom ball by Ashwin. He needed to be told that he had been bowled and not stumped, as he waited around watching the Indian fielders celebrate.
That was as much joy the hosts could garner out of the day, for the Australian tail wagged again. Peter Siddle and Steve Smith first put on a 53-run partnership for the eighth wicket and then Siddle shared an unbroken 42-run stand for the ninth wicket with James Pattinson.
Smith was out just an hour short of stumps, a sharp catch by debutant Rahane giving Ashwin his fourth wicket. He scored 46 runs off 145 balls, with three fours.
But the top scorer of the day was Siddle, who remained unbeaten on 47, his highest Test score. Pattinson was batting on 11, as India bowled 98 overs in the day. Ashwin (4-40) was the best bowler on display, while Jadeja (2-34) and Ishant (2-35) were the other wicket-takers.
© Cricket World 2013
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