New Delhi: All tour long, Australia have found ways and means of shooting themselves in the foot when confronted with the turning ball and a surface that has assisted the spinners, if only slightly. The strip at the Kotla on Friday, day one of the final Test, resembled a third-day track – at best – and, despite having the first use of the surface for the fourth time in as many Tests, Australia did themselves no favours whatsoever with a patchy batting performance.
Not unexpectedly, Michael Clarke sat the game out due to a back injury, paving the way for Shane Watson to lead Australia out in a Test match for the first time. Watson did his side a massive favour by calling correctly and Australia did move into a position of promise, the second-over dismissal of David Warner notwithstanding, but familiar demons resurfaced in the immediacy of the lunch break to allow India, powered by R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, to once again wrest the initiative.
Through a combination of extraordinarily poor stroke election, probing bowling and a unique brand of instinctive captaincy that has stood Mahendra Singh Dhoni in wonderful stead over the years, India scythed through the Australian middle order, reducing them from 106 for 2 to 136 for 7 in 126 deliveries. But, in keeping with the unabated swing of the pendulum that was a huge characteristic of the first day, Australia launched a late fightback spearheaded by Steve Smith and Peter Siddle to go to stumps at 231 for 8.