Stumps day 4: India 5 down, trail Aus by 175 runs

India's bowler Mohammed Shami (L) attempts to field the ball as Australia's batsman Usman Khawaja runs back to the crease during day four of the second Test cricket match between Australia and India in Perth. AFP Photo

 After three and half days of absorbing cricket, where the balance shifted from end to the other with each passing session, Australia finally took the stranglehold of the second Test.

On an unpredictable pitch, which has alternately appeared batting-friendly only to turn a minefield without as much of a sign, the home attack proved too hot to handle as India’s chase of 287 went awry in no time. At the close on the fourth day here at the Optus Stadium on Monday, India was reeling at 112/5 in 41 overs, with their top five batsmen back in the hut. The visitors still trail Australia by 175 runs.

Cheteshwar Pujara’s dismissal had given them a sniff after K L Rahul (0) had made his customary quick exit but Virat Kohli’s (17) fall put them on path to a series-levelling victory. Nathan Lyon (2/30) accounted for the Indian skipper, claiming his wicket for the seventh time. Ajinkya Rahane (30, 47b, 2x4, 1x6) added 43 runs with Hanuma Vihari (24 n.o.) in counter-attacking innings but it was just a matter of time his demise came about. Rishabh Pant (9 n.o.) was giving Vihari the company with a long a tail to follow.     

A fiery spell by Mohammad Shami (6/56) had earlier helped the tourists reduce Australia to 207/9 from their lunch-time score of 190/4 but their old failing – inability to wipe off the tail -- came to haunt them again that allowed the last pair of Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood add 36 runs and take their second innings total to 243 all out in 93.2 overs.

Overnight batsmen Usman Khawaja (72, 213b, 5x4) and Tim Paine (37 n.o., 116b, 4x4) put on a doughty display batting to take Australia, overnight 132/4, saw their team through to lunch without losing any wicket.

The Indian pacers were relentless in their pursuit of a breakthrough, uncorking one unpayable delivery after another. They were fast, hostile and persistent with their and lines and lengths, but a wicket still eluded them as the play-and-miss game remained the theme of the match. While wickets weren’t coming India’s way, they dried up the runs in the first hour of the day. Khawaja and Paine didn’t show any interest in revving up their innings. They appeared happy to play out as many dot balls as possible and grind the attack down -- only 58 runs came off the 30 overs in the opening session.

The post-lunch session, however, saw fortunes swing towards India and in quick time. Shami bowled with a renewed vigour and aggression to remove four wickets, including Paine and Khawaja. Paine and Khawaja had no answer to Shami’s mean bouncers while Aaron Finch, who returned to bat after being cleared to play, was out in between off the first ball he faced on the day. Shami then struck Lyon on the grill and pushed the batsman on the backfoot. The next one too rose high on Lyon and he moved away to put it past cover where Vihari took a simple catch. It was the first time Lyon has got out in this series.

If India thought they would put a quick end to the innings, Starc and Hazlewood frustrated them with some useful runs. When Jasprit Bumrah (3/39) eventually dismissed Starc, Australia had enough on the board for their bowlers to attack.

Brief scores: Australia: 326 all out and (O/n: 132/4): 243 all out in 93.2 overs (Usman Khawaja 72, Tim Paine 37; Mohammad Shami 6-56, Jasprit Bumrah 3-39) vs India: 283 all out (Virat Kohli 123; Nathan Lyon 5-67) and 112/5 in 41 overs (Hazlewood 2-24, Nathan Lyon 2-30). 

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Stumps day 4: India 5 down, trail Aus by 175 runs

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