India’s comeback in the second Test remains a work in progress. But Virat Kohli’s men are just a wee-bit ahead and that is a remarkable tale considering the vagaries they suffered on the first two days.
The match still hangs in the balance but the third day was largely about India recouping and advancing its chances. The Monday crowd at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium couldn’t have asked for more.
At close, India was 213 for four in its second innings and ahead by 126 runs after Australia finished its first innings, in the morning, at 276. That advantage the visitor nursed has been largely chipped away.
India gave a far better account of its batting in the second outing. The road to redemption found its initial building blocks through K.L. Rahul and Abhinav Mukund, whose ‘swivel-and-pull’ six off Mitchell Starc, albeit behind the wicket, hinted at optimism.
It was a trait that was amply reflected by Rahul (51, 85b, 4×4), Cheteshwar Pujara (79 batting, 173b, 6×4) and Ajinkya Rahane (40 batting). The last two have added 93 runs in an unfinished fifth-wicket partnership that also yielded a fruitful last session for India: 91 for no loss in 33 overs.
Rahul and Abhinav added 39 before the latter was castled by Josh Hazlewood just after lunch. The host dressing room could still breathe easy as Rahul’s footwork and bat-flow were in sync. His partner Pujara — the duo shared a 45-run second-wicket partnership — was a nervous starter and enjoyed a lucky break when Steve Smith grassed him at first slip off Nathan Lyon.
Gradually Pujara regained his touch while Rahul’s drives were pleasing, especially one off Starc, and when the bowlers strayed on the leg-side, the flick was immediately unfurled. Rahul reached his 50 in 82 balls and it needed a slice of brilliance to terminate the Bengalurean’s knock.
Striding into his drive off Steve O’Keefe, Rahul edged and the ball was flying past Smith at first slip. In a microsecond, the Australian captain leapt sideways, thrust his right hand and plucked a seemingly impossible catch.
The fans, applauding their local hero as he retreated into the dressing room, found extra zing in their vocal chords as Kohli walked in. He was quick off the mark but suffered another cheap dismissal. There was ambiguity about whether Hazlewood’s delivery had grazed his bat before thudding into the pad. Promptly Kohli sought a review and after action replays and close-ups were frozen for almost an eternity, he was adjudged out. India 112 for three, marginally ahead but still not out of the woods.
The team-management then promoted southpaw Ravindra Jadeja, a ploy to counter off-spinner Lyon, who was trying to exploit the rough at the Northern End. But Jadeja fell at the Pavilion End, allowing Hazlewood to dismantle the stumps.
Alarm bells, though, were muted as Pujara and Rahane played fluently. Balls homing into the stumps or into the rough were kept away and when the bowlers offered width or shortened their lengths, the cuts and sweeps were essayed. Pujara kept threading fours through the off-side while Rahane whipped O’Keefe, the wrists helming the shot.
Wrapping it up
Earlier, India got the first part of its ‘Operation Salvage’ spot on. Resuming at 237 for six, Australia lasted just 16.4 overs, adding 39 runs while losing its remaining wickets with Jadeja and R. Ashwin sharing the spoils.
Jadeja’s six for 63 ensured that the visitor’s tail did not wag and Ashwin prised out Starc. The tail-ender tried to clear mid-wicket and found Jadeja, who then wheeled his bowling arm to scalp the rest and prevented Smith’s men from securing a 100-run lead.
These minor statistics can have a major impact. A pulsating Tuesday awaits.
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