India 172/3 at close against Australia

India's Jasprit Bumrah (2nd R) is congratulated by teammates after dismissing Australian batsman Tim Paine (L) during the second day of the second cricket Test match between Australia and India in Perth on December 15, 2018. (AFP Photo)

Much like the oscillating Saturday’s weather – bright and hot one moment and cloudy and pleasant the next – momentum swung back and forth as India and Australia scrapped hard for control without either of them taking decisive forward step.

If Australia, overnight 277/6, looked like putting India under the pump in the morning with overnight batsmen hanging firm against an erring visiting pace attack, Virat Kohli (82 n.o., 181b, 9x4) and company pulled back things by taking all the remaining wickets in the space of 16 runs. Australia again appeared to have regained the hold when they took out both India openers for eight runs but Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara (24, 103b, 1x4) knuckled down to keep the tourists in the game. The hosts again got a sniff when Mitchell Starc had Pujara caught behind, playing down the leg, but a determined Kohli and an enterprising Ajinkya Rahane (51 n.o., 103b, 6x4, 1x6) put India back on track.

At stumps on the second day of the second Test, India were 172 for three in 69 overs and now trail Australia by 154 runs here at the Optus Stadium.

After restricting Australia to 326 all out, India got off to a disastrous start as M Vijay was cleaned up by Starc during the three overs that India had to play before lunch. Upon resumption, K L Rahul played all over and lost his off-stump to a beauty of a delivery from Josh Hazlewood. Vijay was bowled through the gates by a Starc screamer – fast, full and swinging delivery that angled across the right-hand batsman. Hazlewood’s was an even better delivery that consumed Rahul. The full ball was swinging into the batsman who coiled up to flick it only to see the ball dip under his bat and straighten. The 25-year-old was beaten all ends up as the ball uprooted his off-stump.

Unlike the Indian pacers, who wasted the first hour both day’s play, Aussie bowlers were right on the money from ball one. They bowled fast, full and close to the stumps to keep the Indian batsmen quiet for prolonged periods.

Kohli got off the blocks and gathered some brisk runs off Hazlewood who lost his plot against the Indian skipper but Pat Cummins dried up runs with impeccable lengths. Nathan Lyon too didn’t give anything away as a fascinating battle between Kohli-Pujara and Cummins-Lyon unfolded. India had sped to 38 runs from the first 10 overs but as Aussies tightened things as only 22 came off the last 21 overs before tea interval.   

Kohli and Pujara followed the template of their batting in Adelaide where they grinded the attack down before cashing in on the tired spells. The right-handed duo had added 74 off 200 balls when Pujara surrendered his wicket.

Rahane walked in and appeared to be flirting with danger as he swished, pulled and ramped but once he had some runs against his name, he took his foot off the accelerator. The partnership grew in strength even as the bowlers became increasingly tired. There was some slackness and Indians dutifully punished them on those occasions. The pair captain-deputy pair had added 90 runs for the unbroken fourth-wicket stand and will hope to take the partnership deep into third day       

Earlier, if you thought Indian pacers would have learnt from their mistakes on the opening day, you were in for a disappointment. They had handed over the advantage on a platter to hosts on Friday’s first day by fluffing their lengths and lines in the first hour of the play. By the time they got their act together, Australian openers had batted themselves in. On the second day, the Indian fast bowlers continued their wastefulness in the opening hour to allow overnight batsmen Cummins and Tim Paine to add valuable runs.

Like on Friday, India began to hit the right lengths after a while and had the hosts all out in no time. Resuming at their overnight score of 277/6, Australia had moved to 310/6 and were threatening to breach the 350 barrier when Umesh Yadav broke through the defences of Cummins. It was full and angled in a bit to beat Cummins’ flailing bat. It was just the beginning of Australia’s implosion as Jasprit Bumrah struck to remove Paine at the same score, again the full ball doing the trick.

Ishant Sharma, after a wicketless first spell, returned for his second spell, with a renewed plan. The right-arm quick dismissed Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood off successive full and wide balls to signal the end of Australian innings and put himself in line for a hat-trick in the second innings.

Brief scores: Australia (I Innings; O/n: 277/6): 326 all out (Marcus Harris 70, Aaron Finch 50, Travis Head 58; Ishant Sharma 4-41, Jasprit Bumrah 2-53, Umesh Yadav 2-78) vs India (I Innings): 172/3 in 69 overs (Virat Kohli 82 n.o., Cheteshwar Pujara 24, Ajinkya Rahane 51 n.o.; Mitchell Starc 2-42). 

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