There is something about conventional leg-spinners. While a leggie might not exactly float like a butterfly, he can sting like a bee. Australia experienced this on the third day of the second Test when Amit Mishra's five-wicket haul capped an incisive bowling effort by India and put them in a position from where they can go for the kill in the last act.
This match is following a pattern similar to the one seen in the first Test - the team batting first scoring in excess of 400 and putting the opposition under pressure. Like India in Bangalore, Australia were feeling the heat after losing their main batsmen without much before an eighth-wicket partnership defied the odds for a while.
Unlike Bangalore where India's late resistance had reduced the difference between the teams to 70 runs, Australia's effort couldn't make it any less than 201. The onus is on the hosts now to convert this difference into a significant one. Their quest for victory started on a perfect note with the openers scoring at a rate that was disconcerting for Australia.
It took India seven overs in the morning to add the big wicket of Michael Hussey to the good work they had done in the previous evening. Australia's chances of making a match of this depended heavily on him but the left-hander got a perfect away-going delivery from Ishant Sharma that he had to play at and he only managed an edge.
It was the only reward of the day for Ishant who bowled a fiery first spell, the incoming deliveries troubling right-handers every now and then. But there was no return for India's best bowler of the day. On a wicket that offered nothing to the quick bowlers, Zaheer Khan kept the batsmen on their toes maintaining a tight line and length. There were no loose balls, no let up in intensity and no luck.
The spinners came into play after the first hour and it was always going to be a stern test for Australia's lower middle-order. Both Mishra and Harbhajan invited batsmen to lunge forward or use their feet. While Shane Watson used his height to counter this, Brad Haddin and Cameron White were found wanting on the footwork front. The former heard the timber rattle while trying to drive the off-spinner and White perished in the same manner, foxed by Mishra's googly.
Mishra was a welcome sight. For long, India have had a leg-spinner who works on the same principles but operates in a different manner. Anil Kumble runs in vigorously, bowls with a high-arm action and relies more on top-spinners and wrong ones than the big leg-break. Mishra eases in and gives the ball air. He extracts greater turn and uses his secret weapon more sparingly. A five-wicket haul on debut was reward for his perseverance and of his ploy of bringing batsmen forward.
Australia lost three wickets in the first session and battled hard to stay in the match in the second, when Watson and Brett Lee put up a grim fight. The replacement for Andrew Symonds wasn't fully convincing against the spinners, playing them awkwardly from the crease, but showed good survival strengths and a will to graft. Blocking with bat and pad close together and trying to get behind the line of the ball, Watson was quick to pounce on the loose ones and struck them powerfully.
The 77-run stand between Watson and Lee was the only one worth more than 50 in the innings and this could have a significant impact on the outcome of the match. With Mahendra Singh Dhoni deciding against imposing the follow-on, most probably to let his bowlers loose when they are fresh again, India still had some work to do and that was to score as quickly as possible before declaring the innings closed.
Hundred for no loss in 23 overs surpassed expectations and set them up nicely for the demolition mission.