India 3 for 172 (Kohli 82*, Rahane 51*, Starc 2-42) trail Australia 326 (Harris 70, Head 58, Ishant 4-41) by 154 runs
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane led India’s riposte to Pat Cummins’ tour de force to help the visitors cut their deficit to 154 at stumps on an absorbing second day at the new Perth Stadium. After Australia were dismissed for 326, India lost both M Vijay and KL Rahul to hooping inswingers, but Kohli got cracking with three boundaries off Josh Hazlewood in the 10th over. Enter Cummins and then Nathan Lyon. Their combined genius and relentless accuracy meant Kohli and India had to wait 22 more overs for their next boundary.
This was the passage of play that defined the day. Cummins first attacked Kohli’s off stump and then shifted his lines wider to tease the India captain’s outside edge. At the other end, Lyon found sharp turn and bounce to remind India what they were missing: a frontline spinner. A biting offbreak, which Kohli left alone, nearly trimmed the bails while a non-turning ball drew a leading edge to point. In the 10 overs Cummins and Lyon bowled in tandem during the post-lunch session, India managed only 12 runs. Kohli, though, weathered the storm and reached his first fifty of the series, with his first boundary off Cummins this series.
He ground out 74 for the third wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara, who also played his part in keeping Australia’s attack at bay till tea. His duel with Lyon in particular was intriguing, again. While Pujara often took trips down the pitch and even hid his bat behind pad, like he had done in Adelaide, the loose ball did not come from Lyon here.
Cummins then returned after the break to trouble Pujara with incoming deliveries. One of them skidded off the pitch and pinged the back thigh when he was on 23. The on-field decision was not-out but Tim Paine gambled on a review and lost it because the ball was always bouncing over the stumps.
After Lyon and Cummins had built up all the pressure, it was Mitchell Starc who made the incision when he snaffled Pujara down the leg side for 24 off 103 balls. It was Starc who had produced the first breakthrough, too, when he blazed through the weak defences of Vijay off what turned out to be the last ball before lunch. Rahul, the other opener, was bowled by a sharp inswinger as well. It was the 11th time that he had been dismissed bowled or lbw in his last 15 Test innings.
All of that disappeared into the background when Kohli took centerstage, hitting Hazlewood for four rousing boundaries in a mere nine deliveries, the pick of them being a checked on-drive. After seeing off two immaculate spells from Cummins, he brought up his half-century with an adventurous upper-cut over the slip cordon.
Rahane showed greater attacking enterprise and eased the pressure off Kohli in an unbroken 90-run stand. He hooked Starc over backward square leg for four and then ramped him over third man for a six, evoking memories of his more famous battles with Mitchell Johnson in the country. Once the bowlers adjusted their lengths, Rahane unfurled serene front-foot drives to keep India ticking.
Lyon and Cummins ended with combined figures of 39-7-74-0. On another day they could have run through the opposition with the irresistible pressure they applied, but on Saturday both Kohli and Rahane were immovable.
The day had started more promisingly for Australia with Paine and Cummins taking the hosts past 300 with a nuggety 59-run stand for the seventh wicket. However, they lost their last four wickets for 16 runs to be bowled out about 25 minutes before lunch. Kohli and Rahane then thrilled a crowd of 19,042 and seized the day for India.
Source : ESPN Cricinfo