One of the most enterprising moments in Australian cricket dates back to the 1936-37 Ashes series when skipper Don Bradman reversed the batting order in the second innings on a rain-soaked pitch at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, scoring 270 batting at No 7 to lead the team to a comeback
As the current team plumbs fresh depth in this series against India, which they trail 0-3, the Aussies could well have taken a leaf out of the Don's book. At least that was what one was left feeling as the Australian frontline batsmen once again caved in on a baked and cracked Ferozeshah Kotla pitch.
They recovered to 231 for eight at stumps on the first day of the fourth and final Test only thanks to the kind of lower-order resistance that came to the fore in Mohali. The Aussies were dealt a big blow when skipper Michael Clarke, struggling due to back problem, was ruled out in the morning. Shane Watson, who has gone from enfant terrible to stand-in skipper in a week, called it right as the visitors won the toss for the fourth time and batted.
Fighting to avoid a series rout, it was another opportunity for the batsmen to stand up and be counted. The top four Aussie batsmen instead fell playing loose shots. They were reduced to 136 for seven, losing five wickets between lunch and tea, before the lower-order batsmen demonstrated the value of application. No 9 Peter Siddle, the top-scorer with an unbeaten 47, has helped add 95 for the last two wickets, including 42 with fellow paceman James Pattinson (11 batting).
It was a day of pleasant surprises for MS Dhoni. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, for once, did not strike early, but local lad Ishant Sharma, who had described his role as defensive in this series, struck in his first over and again before lunch.
He removed opener David Warner (0), who chased a delivery outside off-stump to edge to second slip. It was a rank poor shot for the second innings in a row. Phillip Hughes, who finally found form with a fifty in his previous innings, made a brisk 45 when Ishant struck.
On a surface dubbed a "third day" pitch by some experts, one delivery exploded off a crack near the good length spot and struck the left-handed batsman on his helmet. Shaken, he played on a delivery three deliveries later, failing to get his feet to the pitch of the ball.
Watson, one of the four suspended for the Mohali Test for indiscipline - Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja were the others - had the opportunity to lead by example. But restless as the spinners found their rhythm after lunch, he gave the charge to left-arm Ravindra Jadeja to be stumped. Jadeja's score against captains in this series is 6 out of 7, having removed Clarke five times.
Pragyan Ojha, one short of his 100th Test scalp, bowled poorly but Ashwin again led the way. He bowled opener Ed Cowan around the stumps and then switched ends, removing Matthew Wade (2) and Johnson, who was bowled leaving a 'carrom' delivery, which came into the left-hander.
Smith, who scored 92, used his feet well against spin until Ashwin forced him to edge an off-break to debutant Ajinkya Rahane at forward short leg.
Despite the late-order resistance, the hosts would be pleased they have done the spadework for another big win.
© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.