There have been plenty of days during this excellent series when you walk away thinking what a wonderful day of Test cricket you have just witnessed. The second day in Dharamsala proved to be no exception.
With the series on the line both teams were fighting for the opportunity to gain a slight edge.
In the end India finished at 6-248 and trailing by 52 runs as Australia took four wickets in the final session after India had been 2-153 at tea. Nathan Lyon captured all of them as he put in a spell of 4-45 from 19 overs. He was once again enjoying the bounce, sometimes variable, offered on a firm pitch and the sort of conditions when he is normally at his best, "It's closer to a home wicket where I can try and generate the bounce. The bounce is probably my biggest weapon where I'm getting guys caught at bat-pad and the slips."
He would have been pleased to have finally had some success when he took the first of these having taken just one wicket in his previous 93 overs while conceding 280 runs since his 8-50 in the first innings of the second Test.
Just as Australia had made a strong start to it's first innings, India did the same. They lost Murali Vijay when the persistent Josh Hazlewood finally got him to edge behind when he had made 11. KL Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara then played well together to take the score to 108 before Rahul frustrated many by getting himself out.
If Darren Lehmann was KL Rahul's coach, India's opener would have been receiving the same message as Lehmann used to pass on to his Australian charges, once you are in "go big". Lehmann gets frustrated when a batsman has settled into his innings and then throws away the chance of making a big hundred. In this series Rahul is averaging 57 with five scores of over fifty in his six innings but has yet to score a century. He has looked composed and had plenty of time to play the ball and will launch into aggressive drives that has given him a strike rate higher than any of his team mates in the top six in the order. However, he has given the impression of his job having been completed once he has made fifty. At that point he has become more adventurous and it appeared to be over confidence that got the better of him as he took on a short ball from Pat Cummins and top-edged it to mid-on to be dismissed for 60, "I'd batted in the middle for a long time and I thought that I could take him on but (it was) horrible execution but the intent was the right idea".
He was full of praise for Australia's pace attack as it enjoyed the helpful conditions, "Josh (Hazlewood) and (Pat) Cummins in the first session I can say has been the toughest session that I've faced in Test cricket so far. They put the ball in the right areas, they swung the ball, they bowled with a lot of pace and a lot of venom and I was thoroughly enjoying batting out there in the middle."
His wicket brought Ajinkya Rahane to the crease and it could have been expected that India's stand-in captain would play a calm innings in the same manner that he had guided his side in the field. For whatever reason he didn't seem to have brought a clear mind to the middle with him. He had been dismissed in the previous Test caught behind playing a ramp shot to Pat Cummins. Steve Smith had positioned a third man for a similar dismissal and, amazingly, off just the second ball that he faced he tried to repeat the shot and was very lucky not to feather another edge. He didn't learn from that close call for he successfully took the risky option of pulling Cummins next ball to the boundary and the following one, another short-pitched delivery, he pulled again and the ball sailed over Matthew Wade's head for a fortuitous six. That short, carefree flurry seemed to be all that Rahane needed to settle into his innings. Having scored ten from the first four deliveries that he faced it was a further thirty-six before he struck another boundary.
Fortunately for him he had the cool head of Pujara at the other end who had carefully moved on to a chanceless 29 when it was his captain's turn to bat. Pujara spoke a couple of times to Rahane as he seemingly tried to switch his captain's mind to the task at hand.
Pujara has been the rock of India's batting in the same way that Smith has been key to Australia's performances. Like Smith, he has scored more than four hundred runs in the series and has become the most prized wicket. In the first over after tea Nathan Lyon claimed that reward as he got a ball to pop up at the River End and Pujara, on 57, could only glove a catch to short-leg. It was the first of Lyon's four wickets. With Pujara gone Australia would now have sensed the chance to make further inroads into India's batting. India's next two batsman, Karun Nair and Ravi Ashwin, had only scored 72 runs in the series between them with an average of 9.
Indeed, Nair didn't last long, falling for 5 to another bat-pad chance but Ashwin stuck around and his aggressive approach seemed to rub off on Rahane who once again started playing expansive shots as the pair put on 49 for the sixth wicket. Both fell in quick succession to Lyon and India was now in trouble at 6-221 and knowing that it would have to bat last on a wicket that was starting to cause problems. Something that wasn't lost on Lyon, "Hopefully it's going to be a massive challenge for them but it depends on how long we bat for and how many runs we can set them but whatever we set India it's going to have to be enough for us."
After Ravi Jadeja launched a couple of sixes Smith took the new ball for the five overs of the day and it almost paid dividends immediately. Cummins enticed an edge from Wriddhiman Saha who was on 9 but Matt Renshaw at first slip couldn't hold the relatively straight-forward chance. Earlier in the day he wasn't able to hold on to a much tougher catch when he got his hand to a 146kph delivery from Cummins when Rahul had made 10. The result of this Test and the series may hinge on such small errors.