When the two captains chose contrasting bowling combinations, the main point of interest was who has got it wrong? Michael Clarke is rated highly for his cricket acumen, but here he seems to have received a lesson in the art of captaining in the subcontinent. Pace helps but the spin back-up is
more important - he will agree after the first Test.
Clarke's line of thinking behind going for a four-pronged pace combination was to pick his best bowlers than worry about the conditions. At the end of the game, he will admit that when playing on dustbowls, factoring in the conditions is crucial unless you have the all-time greatest pace arsenal at your disposal like Clive Lloyd had in 1983.
Llyod had unleashed Malcolm Marshall & Co with great success in that revenge series 30 years ago, but the Australian pace-quartet led by James Pattinson bowled their hearts out without impact. By preparing a slow, low wicket, the hosts successfully negated their threat.
As a consequence at the end of the fourth day's play, the visitors were staring at a massive defeat in the opening rubber. Pattinson's five-wicket haul would only offer token consolation. After skipper MS Dhoni's record-breaking 224 helped India grab a 192-run lead, Aussies crashed to 232 for nine - a lead of 40 with one wicket in hand. The Aussie bowling looked helpless in containing the Indian assault led by Dhoni, and with the change in innings, the change in fortunes was dramatic with the Indian spinners looking unplayable on the same surface.
Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc can't be faulted for a lack of intensity, but this playing area is so dead that even for deliveries hurled at around 150 kmph, the batsmen could simply shift balance, without moving feet, and play with ease.
Their success ended with the first new ball and after a long time almost everyone in the Indian middle and lower-order got among the runs.
The challenge for the Aussie batsmen was greater on the fourth day as the wicket had become more spiteful and Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja offered spearhead R Ashwin better support.
Seeing his batsmen twist and turn on a pitch where his pacers were brutalised by the India batsmen must have made Clarke understand of the method which works in the subcontinent.
If Clarke needed any further proof, it was there in his own second innings dismissal. He was done in by low bounce when he shaped to cut Ashwin and was rapped on his back knee. The wicket ended Australia's hopes of saving the match.
Ashwin, who added five more to his first innings tally of seven, had started the procession at the stroke of lunch with the wicket of Shane Watson, who opened in place of the ill David Warner. Thereafter, wickets fell in a heap and Clarke was sixth to fall at the score of 131. Soon, it was 175 for nine and with 18 more runs needed to make India bat again, it looked as if it would be all over before the end of the day. Moises Henriques (batting 75), with support from Nathan Lyon, managed to avoid that ignominy but it's only a matter of time before the Indian celebrations begin.
The Chepauk track: a spin haven
The Chennai wicket crumbled exactly the way India wanted, to prey on the spin-shy Australia batsmen. The unpredictable bounce and sharp turn from the rough had the Aussies all at sea. Here's a close look at the spin-friendly track…
It's in the soil
It's made up of red soil. This soil has greater granule content and less clay compared to more clay-based wickets in North India. The red soil offers more bounce and the ball grips more. The pitch crumbles a lot quicker and hence offers more turn.
Weather plays part
The hot weather sucks moisture from the pitch and keeps it dry, thus accelerating the crumbling.
Keeping it dry
The real trick, however, lies in maintaining the wicket in the last few days leading into the game. "Watering and rolling leading to the game pretty much determines how the wicket behaves. This Chennai wicket, for instance, must have been watered very little and rolled a lot to ensure it stayed dry and crumbled as the game progressed," said former India stumper Vijay Yadav, now a curator.
Rough it up
Apart from the normal wear and tear, spikes scratch the surface and create roughs around playing area. It's this rough the spinners, especially Jadeja, have bowled into to extract bounce and turn.
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