Mitchell Johnson‘s dramatic opening-hour spell and a gusty half-century by opener Chris Rogers spurred Australia to a four-wicket victory over India in the second Commonwealth Bank Test at Gabba on Saturday. Chasing 128, Australia huffed and puffed a bit and made the Indians wonder how the end would have panned had they set a 200-plus target.
A knock of 81 by Shikhar Dhawan, whose innings was interrupted by injury at the nets, and incisive bowling by Ishant Sharma were of no avail. The win not only gave Australia an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy series but also stretched their undefeated run in Brisbane to 26 Tests over 36 years.
As Australia rallied to bridge the 157-run deficit and then opened up a handy 97-run lead, India discovered that they had managed to wake up the sleeping giant answering to the name of Mitchell Johnson by needling him. The left-hander followed his blazing half-century on Friday with a four-wicket haul, doubling his tally of scalps in the series.
India’s loss raised questions about their batting implosion on Saturday, a day after their bowlers made a poor choice of length after reducing Australia to 247 for six in their first innings. The Indians were punished for a very poor opening session after play resumed with India at 71 for one. They lost four wickets in 26 deliveries and were well and truly on the backfoot.
It appeared that the Indians let events from the hour before the match resumed to affect them. Dhawan, batting 26 overnight, was one of the two batsmen injured at the nets and unable to resume his innings at the start of the day. By the time he returned to the crease, with painkillers and no X-ray, the Indian innings was in a complete disarray.
Pressed into early action, Virat Kohli was tentative and dragged a Johnson delivery outside the off-stump to his wicket. Ajinkya Rahane walked in with a more positive intent but was soon walking back to the hut, looping a catch to Nathan Lyon at gully off a well-directed short-pitched delivery. Rohit Sharma continued to reach outside the off-stump and quickly nicked a catch.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to waffle across the off-stump to try and play the leg glide off just the second delivery he faced was done in by Josh Hazlewood’s pace and movement to be in front, enough for the umpire to rule him out. R Ashwin sparked off India’s mini-revival with his positive approach but he was ruled out caught behind for 19.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s uneventful vigil came to an end when he got a snorter from Hazlewood and offered Lyon his second catch. Dhawan and Umesh Yadav, who made his Test best score, mounted a rearguard with a 60-run stand for the eighth wicket was entertaining but inadequate. Dhawan fell in trying to play the innovative lap shot against off-spinner Lyon. But, combining with Umesh Yadav’s 30 (42 balls, two fours, two sixes), Dhawan’s knock of 81 (145 balls, eight fours) gave the Indian bowlers a target in excess of 100 to defend.
Ishant Sharma, hungrier and angrier after being reportedly denied vegetarian fare at lunch, came out firing and hunted down David Warner and Shane Watson to catches by Dhoni, the former edging an angled delivery and the latter top-edging a pull that ballooned up. He claimed Rogers’ wicket too to a catch in the slips but Australia were already sniffing the win.
Rogers overcame a gingerly start to make 55 (57 balls, 10 fours) and the confident Steven Smith shared a 63-run stand and even the fall of Shaun Marsh and Brad Haddin to Umesh and Smith’s run out were not going to be enough to stop Australia from poaching another win and leaving India with their sixth defeat in nine Tests this year.
The Indians, upset by poor practice facilities and the menu at lunch, showed hunger on the field but they were left wishing for a few more runs to defend. It needed a frontline batsman to stay at the crease long enough in the first session on Friday, especially after the inability of to clinch the first innings lead.
Brief scores: Australia 505 and 130/6 (Chris Rogers 55; Ishant Sharma 3/38) beat India 408 and 224 by 6 wickets in Brisbane.