India cruise to 151/3, Rahul scores 44

India cruise to 151/3, Rahul scores 44

Virat Kohli walks after Australia took his wicket during day three of the first Test cricket match at the Adelaide Oval on December 8, 2018. Credit: AFP Photo/Peter Parks

Patience was wearing thin and the proverbial Sword of Damocles was hanging around K L Rahul’s neck. He was just one more failure away from losing his spot in the XI, but the opener showed few signs of a batsman living on borrowed time. His cameo in India’s second innings was crucial even though the innings itself was an unconvincing one.

The right-hander swished and missed, edged and played airy-fairy shots but rode his luck to a 67-ball 44 (3x4, 1x6) to give India the start they were looking for after managing just a 15-run lead against Australia. Along with M Vijay (18 off 53 balls), the right-hander added 63 runs for the opening wicket, their first 50-plus partnership in 11 innings and the first on foreign soil, ensuring both Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli didn’t get exposed to the new ball.

Cashing in on the good start, Pujara followed up his 123 in the first innings with another 40 n.o. (127b, 4x4) while Kohli, who was cheered to the crease by Indian fans and booed by the Aussie fans, struck a patient 34 (104b, 3x4). Their burgeoning partnership (71 runs) was threatening to take the match away from Australia but Nathan Lyon dismissed Kohli during the extended 30-minute play to bring some relief to the home camp. India finished the rain-hit Saturday’s third day of the first Test on a healthy 151/3 from 61 overs. And coupled with a narrow 15-run first innings lead, the tourists effectively are 166 runs ahead with seven wickets in hand here at another well-attended Adelaide Oval. Ajinkya Rahane (1) was giving company to Pujara at the close.

Australia, overnight 191/7 in reply to India’s 250 all out, were bowled out for 235 in 98.4 overs after the play began 45 minutes behind schedule due to heavy spells of showers and was interrupted two more times leading to a delayed lunch. Before the teams broke for lunch, India managed to remove the remaining Australian wickets but not before allowing the hosts to add 44 valuable runs.

Jasprit Bumrah (3/47) dismissed Mitchell Starc while Mohammad Shami (2/58) claimed Travis Head (72) and Josh Hazlewood (0) off successive deliveries to end Australia’s resistance.

The new-ball was just eight overs old and the conditions remained overcast, but the Indian pacers still found it hard to wipe off the Aussie tail. Australia’s narrow deficit meant, it was going to be a second-innings match on a wicket that is still hard for stroke-making and an outfield that has only become heavier after frequent showers.

To that extent, India were placed pretty with their openers coming to the party. Vijay failed to build on his tentative start as did Rahul who was just beginning to grow in confidence. Any batsman in his spot would have gone into a shell after those flashes and misses but the Bengaluru batsman persisted with his aggressive approach and soon, it began to pay off. There was not much value for many of his shots on a painfully-slow field, but he ran hard between wickets to keep the scoreboard moving. Just when he looked set for a big one, he attempted another lofted shot, only to edge Hazlewood behind the wickets. The disappointment on his face was obvious but his innings could prove handy in what has been a low-scoring match so far. The fact that Rahul’s was the third highest individual score of the match when he got out, put his innings into perspective.

Australia may have smelt blood after Rahul’s dismissal with the score reading 76/2, but Pujara and Kohli doused the fire with their ice-cool approach. While Pujara, who was given out twice off Nathan Lyon but survived on both occasions after successful reviews, went about his task in his usual unhurried manner, Kohli too was uncharacteristically extra cautious. Given the form of the remaining batsmen, it was the right approach by the Indian skipper to see off the day without much damage but Lyon, who struggled to find his rhythm bowling too short and failing to hit the right spots, salvaged himself with the prized scalp.

Brief scores: India: 250 all out and 151/3 in 61 overs (KL Rahul 44, Cheteshwar Pujara 40 n.o., Virat Kohli 34) vs Australia (O/n: 191/7): 235 all out in 98.4 overs (Travis Head 72, Nathan Lyon 24 n.o.; Jasprit Bumrah 3-47, R Ashwin 3-57, Ishant Sharma 2-47, Mohammad Shami 2-58).    

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