The meek surrender of Australia has been baffling. One wondered what Matthew Hayden, doing TV commentary in the second Test, would have thought of their two top-order batsmen when they perished playing the sweep shot on the third evening.
It was a stroke he used to resurrect his
career, employing it with stunning success against India’s spinners on the 2001 tour. David Warner and Phil Hughes tried the stroke only to be bowled around the legs by R Ashwin.
Equally confused by Australia’s plummeting fortunes would be coach Mickey Arthur. Addressing the press on Sunday after Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay had toyed with his pace attack, he was at pains to explain the lack of success of his speed merchants.
The last time Arthur came to India in 2008, he was the South Africa coach. He had a similar pace-heavy artillery, and they were up against a must stronger batting line-up, but they were more than competitive.
In fact, South Africa have always banked on their pacers to do the job in the subcontinent - they have won five and lost five Tests in India.
In conditions where seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar tormented the Aussie top-order in both innings, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Moises Henriques failed to make an impression.
Setting the field became a challenge for captain Michael Clarke. When he tried to attack, his bowlers produced loose deliveries with irritating consistency.
When he shifted strategy to check the runs by sandbagging one side, they bowled on both sides of the wicket.
For the second straight Test an India batsman hammered a double hundred and out-batted Australia. Pujara scored a masterful 204 to emulate the Chennai effort of MS Dhoni.
Murali Vijay made an entertaining 167. Riding on their 370-run stand, the home team finished at 503, taking a lead of 266 runs. The hosts were 150 ahead when the partnership was broken at the score of 387.
In their second essay, Australia are staring down the barrel at 74 for two, a deficit of 192 runs with two days to play.
The post-lunch session could be the only period which Australia can claim to have dominated in the first three days. Resuming at 400 for three, the hosts lost their last seven wickets for 103 runs in 31.1 overs.
Spinners Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell finally had some reason to cheer, taking three and four wickets respectively.
It all boils down to execution. The plan Australia is trying is tried and tested, but the implementation has been poor.
Like South Africa, this Australia's strength too is fast bowling and with Arthur part of the think-tank, it's expected he would have recommended taking on India with pace.
But, the Proteas success was based on building pressure with extremely disciplined bowling.
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