India battle to stay afloat

India battle to stay afloat

Fighting like cornered tigers, India put up their best batting performance yet in the series to keep themselves in contention in the second Test.

 Cheteshwar Pujara (79 batting, 173b, 6x4) and Ajinkya Rahane (40 batting, 105b, 3x4) posted 93 runs for the unbroken fifth-wicket stand to not only prevent a familiar collapse but also fuel hosts’ hopes of levelling the four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. At close on the middle day of the Test, India were 213 for four in 72 overs here at the M Chinnaswamy stadium on Monday.

India now have a 126-run lead after wiping off an 87-run cushion that Australia had managed in the morning. Resuming at their overnight score of 237/6, the tourists were all out for 276 in 122.4 overs. Ravindra Jadeja claimed three of those four wickets to go with his three on the second day for his seventh five-wicket haul (6/63).      

 Starting their second innings in significant arrears, India needed to bat out of their skins. They did begin on a positive note with openers KL Rahul (51, 85b, 4x4) and Abhinav Mukund giving them their best start of the series – 39 runs – before the latter saw his defences shattered by a Josh Hazlewood (3/57) ripper. The right-arm quick threatened to consign India to another low total with two more scalps, including that of skipper Virat Kohli, before the Pujara-Rahane stand hauled them out of the deep hole.

 Kohli appeared determined in his brief stint but was done in by a Hazlewood grubber. The right-hander reviewed the lbw verdict immediately, confident he had nicked it before it struck his pad. The replays remained inconclusive as to whether it hit the bat first or the pad and that meant the decision of the on-field umpire stayed. Jadeja was promoted up the order in place of Rahane with a specific purpose of negating Nathan Lyon’s advantage.

The off-spinner had taken eight Indian wickets in their first innings, primarily exploiting the rough outside the off while bowling from the Pavilion End. However, the Aussie left-handers had handled R Ashwin more effectively, denying the Indian off-spinner the same rewards. Jadeja, though, was cleaned up by Hazlewood at the other end and at 120/4 -- which effectively meant 33/4 -- India appeared headed for another embarrassment. Pujara, benefitting from a dropped catch by Steven Smith on four, grew from strength to strength while Rahane showed more trust in his defence to prosper.

The two read the lengths better, used their feet well – either thrusting forward to smother the spin or staying deep in the crease to work the ball for singles and twos. Pujara in fact pulled Lyon on a few occasions to display his growing confidence.

Much before Pujara and Rahane breathed life into India’s innings, Rahul looked in absolute comfort and control through his 106-minute stay. The right-hander started off with a flicked four off Starc and that confidence shone through his attractive innings. The 24-year-old appeared set for a big one but fell to another moment of lapse in concentration — a poke at Steve O’Keefe’s widish delivery was brilliantly pouched by Smith in the slip. It was a tame end to a bright innings.
  
Earlier in the day, Indian bowlers did well to polish off the rest of the Australian innings before it assumed dangerous proportions. Overnight batsmen Matthew Wade and Mitchell Starc made some brisk runs before the latter perished while attempting to launch R Ashwin into the stands. That opened the floodgates with Jadeja removing the remaining three in a jiffy, giving him an impressive day’s spell of 4.4-0-14-3.
DH News Service

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