India vs Australia: Kohli, Rahane offer India respite after poor start

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane added 90 runs for the fourth wicket to steer India to 172/3 at stumps on the second day of the second Test of the ongoing India vs Australia Test series.

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane steadied the Indian innings by putting up 90 runs for the fourth wicket on day two of the second Test of the ongoing India vs Australia Test series.   -  AFP

Late on a Saturday evening here at the Optus Stadium, there was a sudden spurt of the Bhangra. Belatedly fans flung their tired arms and a feeble Mexican wave ensued. Just like the music’s tempo and the late reaction from the audience, constituted diverse layers of the viewing experience, the batting on offer, was split into two contrasting styles.

Virat Kohli (82 batting) was regal right from the time he walked in following K. L. Rahul’s dismissal. The rest, be it Australia’s lower-order or Kohli’s batting colleagues, were tentative, though, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane (51 batting) had their moments. 

India is still playing catch-up in the second Test while trailing Australia’s 326. At the second day’s close, Kohli’s men scored 172 for three in their first innings and need another 154 to draw level with the host.

 

The early part of India’s stint had to brave past a nervous 20-minute segment prior to lunch. It got worse when Mitchell Starc castled Murali Vijay for a blob. The opener covered the angle but the ball sneaked in, and at the break, India was six for one.

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Post-lunch, it was Rahul’s turn to be stunned. Josh Hazlewood’s yorker tailed into his toes and as the opener shaped for a flick, the ball straightened and slammed into the stumps. India was eight for two and Pujara and Kohli had to do the salvage-operation.

The Indian skipper’s supreme command was revealed through a garland of fours off Hazlewood. Three drives, ranging from the straight to the one forced towards the on-side, left the fielders comatose. But against a relentless Pat Cummins, Kohli shed his ego and played the waiting game. Meanwhile Pujara and Nathan Lyon were locked in a cat-and-mouse tussle. The Saurashtra batsman kept striding forward and the off-spinner altered the length, forcing the batsman to either lunge or retreat. Through their different methods, Kohli and Pujara anchored India to 70 for two at tea. 

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After the break, the 74-run third-wicket partnership was grounded as Australia enforced the leg-side strangle. Starc bowled closer to the leg-stump with a short-leg and men alternating between leg-slip and fine-leg, in place. Pujara was suckered into playing one going down the leg-side and feathered a catch to Tim Paine.

Indian skipper Virat Kohli celebrates after reaching his half-century against Australia on Saturday.   -  Reuters

 

Rahane, who joined Kohli, seemed to be in a rush, trying to lash and whip before his counter-attacking biff slowed down to match Kohli’s steady gait. Rahane slashed a six off Starc and later gloriously drove Hazlewood. A lot hinges on Kohli and Rahane and they need to extend their current unfinished 90-run partnership for the fourth wicket. After them there is Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant and a weak tail, and that doesn’t augur well.

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In the morning, with the temperature yet to reach the mild high of 28 degrees, India’s exertions were easy. Australia’s tail, by its exalted adhesive standards, remained low-key. Resuming at 277 for six, the host added 49 runs from 18.3 overs while losing its last four.

Paine pulled Mohammed Shami for four and then along with Cummins, went through their share of play-and-miss, risky singles and muffled lbw appeals. However, the psychological 300-mark was breached. But once the Indians bowled fuller, the wickets fell. Umesh Yadav castled Cummins, Paine was trapped on the shuffle by Jasprit Bumrah, while Starc and Hazlewood fell off successive deliveries to Ishant Sharma.

It left India brooding over methods to cope with a combative score. Hours later when a tired Kohli and Rahane walked back, the match still remained in the balance and its tipping point should be known on Sunday.