Chennai, Feb 25: India are on the brink of victory in the first Test against Australia. R Ashwin was the star with five wickets as Australian batsmen were caught in a spin web on the fourth day on Monday. With just one wicket remaining, Australia lead by 40 runs.
It could have been all over for Australia early if not for a gutsy half century from debutant Moises Henriques. He stood tall among the ruins and frustrated the Indians. He and Nathan Lyon have so far added 57 runs for the last wicket and pushed the match into the fifth day. At stumps, Australia were 232/9.
Henriques registered his second half century of the match and remained undefeated on 75 with Lyon on 8. India took the second new ball after 80 overs but still could not separate the final pair who had come together at 175/9.
Thanks to Henriques' batting, Australia managed to avoid an innings defeat. They were trailing by 192 on the second innings and wilted under pressure from spinners.
The Indian spin trio of Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja tied Australian batsmen in knots on a fourth-day surface suited for the home bowlers. It was all the way spin till the 75th over from the Indians. Ishant Sharma got two overs after that.
Among the three slow bowlers, homeboy Ashwin stole the show. After taking seven in the first innings, the tall offspinner overshadowed 100-Test veteran Harbhajan with his performance.
This was Ashwin's second 10-wicket haul in Tests. So far in this game, he has taken 12. In second essay he had bowling figures of 5/90 in 28 overs. Harbhajan took 2/55 in 27 while Jadeja bowled 26 overs for his two wickets for 68 runs.
At tea, Australia 128/5
Australia were battling to save the first Test against India in Chennai on Monday. On a pitch which is turning and bouncing alarmingly, the visiting batsmen have a tough road ahead with half the side back in the pavilion by tea on the fourth day. They were 128/5 with still 64 runs behind.
All three Indian spinners - R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja have made an impact so far. In the post-lunch session, it was the left-arm spin of Jadeja that left the batsman in more worry.
Captain Michael Clarke preferred to attack the spinners. He kept the scoreboard ticking. However, he had a reprieve on 0 when Virat Kohli dropped him at backward shortleg.
Harbhajan took two wickets, both left-handers. First it was David Warner who was LBW and then Matthew Wade bowled.
Jadeja bowled an unplayable ball which bounced and took Phil Hughes' glove and was accepted by Virender Sehwag at slip.
All hopes of Australia to take the game into the fifth day will rest on Clarke, who is 31 not out. Moises Henriques is unbeaten on 5 at tea break.
At lunch, Australia 34/1
MS Dhoni resumed his blistering innings on Monday morning and soon broke Sachin Tendulkar's record on the fourth day of the first Test against Australia here. India were bowled out for 572 in 154.3 overs. The hosts have a healthy 192-run lead on a turning pitch.
Dhoni, when on 218, went past Tendulkar for the highest score by an Indian captain. Tendulkar had made 217 against New Zealand as Team India skipper in 1999 in Ahmedabad.
The Indian captain smashed a six and a boundary in the first half hour of play. He was however dismissed by James Pattinson for 224, caught by wicketkeeper Matthew Wade. India were 546/9 in the 146.3 overs.
At lunch, Australia were 34/1. R Ashwin struck on the last ball before lunch to get Shane Watson caught by Virender Sehwag.
Australia still trail by 158 runs. David Warner did not open the batting as he was unwell.