R. Ashwin spins India to series-levelling win against Australia
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Bengaluru: Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picked up six wickets to lead India to a dramatic 75-run victory over Australia in the second test on Tuesday, the win enabling the hosts to level the four-match series at 1-1.
On a M. Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch offering unpredictable bounce for the pacemen and sharp turn for the spinners, Australia were bundled all out for 112 in their second innings late on the fourth day after being set a victory target of 188.
India’s hopes of squaring the series looked all but dead when they were dismissed for 189 in their first innings but the world’s top-ranked side fought back to keep Australia within reach and then batted resolutely to set a testing target.
Ashwin’s five-wicket haul was the 25th for the world’s top-ranked bowler, who finished with figures of 6-41 in an enthralling test match that witnessed four different bowlers pick up six wickets for a first time.
“It is a great feeling to beat Australia, the way things went in the first innings and the way we came back, it was a memorable test match for all of us,” India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara said in a post-match interview.
“Anything about 200 was almost impossible too chase but once we crossed 150, we all believed we could defend this total and once we had 188, we definitely believed it.”
After dismissing the free-scoring opening batsman David Warner for 17 in his first spell, Ashwin returned before tea to send back Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade.
Peter Handscomb was Australia’s last hope but he too, fell to Ashwin in the final session, as did Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon as the off-spinner took five wickets for just nine runs in a devastating spell either side of the interval.
Fast bowler Umesh Yadav also chipped in, getting the big wicket of Australia captain Steve Smith, who was out leg before to a grubber that stayed so low it almost hit his boot.
Smith was out for 28 and also angered the Indian fielders when he appeared to look towards his dressing room for advice before opting against a review of the decision.
Umesh also dismissed Shaun Marsh leg before for nine, when he padded a delivery outside the off stump. The batsman would have been saved if he had reviewed the decision with replays showing the ball was missing the wicket.
Josh Hazlewood earlier picked up career-best figures of 6-67 to rip through India’s batting on the fourth morning and remove the hosts for 274 in their second innings when it appeared they would score much more.
Smith started with spin from both ends to try and break the fifth-wicket partnership between Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane but when the new ball was available after 80 overs, he handed it to his pacemen.
Left-arm quick Mitchell Starc was erratic at first but then made a key breakthrough by dismissing Rahane leg before for 52 with a full inswinger that ending a vital partnership of 118.
Starc then rattled the stumps of Karun Nair with his next ball and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha only just survived the hat-trick delivery.
The 26-year-old Hazlewood, who had taken three wickets on Monday, took up the gauntlet in the following over and struck a major blow to India’s hopes by dismissing Pujara for 92, caught at gully.
Ashwin was also out in the same over for four to the right-arm paceman and Umesh became Hazlewood’s sixth victim as India lost five wickets for just 20 runs in 19 deliveries.