New Delhi: After three one-sided matches, the fourth and final Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla threw up the most engrossing day of the series as Australia, inspired by Nathan Lyon, made a total of 262 appear a lot more. Lyon, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson had extended Australia's overnight total by 31 in the morning, and with ball in hand each played a role in keeping India to 266 for 8 at stumps on Saturday.
Lyon wheeled away 22 overs on the trot and enjoyed arguably his most profitable day as a Test cricketer, getting the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and R Ashwin. His excellent work began in the afternoon session, and by tea the tone of the second session was markedly different than it had been when it began. In the final session, he added to India's woes with an extended spell of 22-3-94-4, before striking with the last ball of the day for his third five-wicket haul.
For India, valuable runs from Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin helped avert a major embarrassment but on a spiteful pitch, already acting like a fifth-day surface, they will need to extract as much as possible from the tail on Sunday.
Spin made an appearance after 19 overs had been bowled, and it was Lyon who snapped a century opening stand in his fourth over. Pujara reached his fifty in 74 balls, but on 52 missed an offbreak that did not turn as much as expected and was bowled. Lyon added a second soon after when Kohli played back to a delivery that turned in, and should have had Tendulkar lbw on 1. Richard Kettleborough ruled in the batsman's favor, reckoning that the ball would miss its mark; however, replays showed it had pitched in line and would have gone on to hit middle stump.
Murali Vijay, on 57, got an unplayable delivery from Siddle which lobbed off his gloves for a simple catch behind the stumps. That brought in the debutant Ajinkya Rahane, who was welcomed with an lbw appeal off an inswinging full ball and then a snorter that clanged into his helmet. The 24-year-old appeared nervous during his time in the middle, which ended on his 19th ball faced. It was a simple dismissal, Rahane turning Lyon straight to backward short leg.
The biggest blow for India came in Lyon's following over, when Tendulkar - having just been reprieved at backward short leg - played back and across and was trapped plumb in front for 32. Tempers started to fray during the last hour of play, with Pattinson having words with Jadeja and David Warner getting peeved at Dhoni's running down the center of the pitch and taking a throw on the pads. Five overthrows only added to Australia's frustrations.
Dhoni was next to go for 24 off 23 balls, pulling Pattinson straight to midwicket. Australia were stalled, however, with a 44-run stand between Jadeja and Ashwin who survived some ripping deliveries and playing some fine shots. Jadeja used his crease well to cut and drive confidently, and his innings took India almost to the lead. On 43, he was incorrectly given lbw to Glenn Maxwell. Lyon was called back for the final over of the day and needed one delivery to get Ashwin lbw for 12.
Earlier, Australia's last two wickets added 31 runs to the team's total, with the overnight pair of Siddle (51) and Pattinson (30) becoming landmark victims. Siddle was Ashwin's fifth wicket, giving him his ninth five-wicket haul in just his 16th Test, while Pattinson became Pragyan Ojha's 100 wicket in his 22nd.
Shortly after reaching his maiden Test half-century with a push into the covers, Siddle prodded forward to and was beaten by an offbreak from Ashwin, who finished with figures of 34-18-57-5. Siddle's 51 spanned 136 deliveries and was the highest individual contribution to Australia's total. He and Pattinson had put on 54 in 20.5 overs for the ninth wicket. Pattinson and Lyon (8 not out off 40 balls) resisted for a further ten overs until Pattinson edged Ojha to slip, putting the left-arm spinner at third place in India's all-time list of quickest to 100 Test wickets.