India vs Australia: Kohli falls; India finishes 166 runs ahead

Kohli's 104-ball 34 on day three of the first India vs Australia Test saw himbecome the fourth Indian to hit 1000 runs in Australia. 

Kohli and Pujara put India in command on day three before Lyon had Kohli caught at short leg.   -  getty images

It was a day of contrasts. There was rain in the morning and later the sun emerged in all its summer glory. Out on the grass-banks and from the stands, some local fans dished out verbal barbs and even booed Virat Kohli. Their Indian counterparts responded with bhangra and an alternating chorus of ‘jeetega, jeetega’ and ‘Kohli, Kohli’.

The cricket too was played in two parts here at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday. Australia was tentative, hopeful, and a touch behind in the race for match-honours. India stayed emphatic, positive, and kept trying to wrest the contest.

AS IT HAPPENED

The first Test is still in the balance but Kohli’s men are a wee-bit ahead. At the third day’s close, India posted 151 for three in its second innings and has an overall lead of 166. It is a significant number and if the lead spills past 200, the Aussies would be grappling with a tough chase.   

After bowling out Australia for 235 and having wrested a 15-run first-innings lead, India commenced its second outing after lunch, with positive intent. K.L. Rahul and Murali Vijay were watchful. The former was prone to some adventure, the latter protected his citadel. There was the odd play-and-miss but largely it was about the sound of the red cherry thudding into the bat’s sweet spot. 

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Rahul (44) seemed determined to score. He cover-drove Josh Hazlewood, slashed a four over slips off Pat Cummins and then hoisted the seamer for six. The first-wicket pair added 63 when Vijay edged Starc’s angled delivery, to slip. Rahul continued unhindered. He reverse-swept Nathan Lyon but uppishly drove Hazlewood, and feathered one to Tim Paine.

Kohli walked into applause as well as boos. It was bizarre. Beer-fuelled fans were perhaps adding their share of mirth but soon everyone settled down to appreciate the slow-burn of a simmering Test. Cheteshwar Pujara (40 batting) stood on his toes and cut Starc and Kohli’s bat was a picture of aesthetic-arrogance as he cover drove the Australian spearhead.

 

Lyon was countered with sweeps and pulls. The off-spinner had more disappointment in store, especially against Pujara. A caught-behind and an lbw were over-turned as the batsman successfully reviewed the umpire’s verdict.

However, against the run of play, Kohli perished to Lyon. His forward defensive stroke lobbed towards short-leg but by then the Indian skipper and Pujara had added 71 for the third wicket. This partnership's incremental value would be known on Saturday when Australia buckles down for the chase.  

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Earlier, dawn was accompanied by the pitter-patter of rain. Predictably the day’s first-half witnessed shreds of cricket interspersed with phases when the weather gods flung wet curtains. But even those precious minutes advanced this riveting clash. After a delayed start and resuming at the overnight 191 for seven, Australia lasted 10.4 overs and added 44.

Starc fell to Jasprit Bumrah but next-man Lyon presented a blend of dodgy defence and adventurous strokes. It was exhilarating for the fans and exasperating for Kohli’s men. With Travis Head (72, 167b, 6x4) being steady, Lyon swept R. Ashwin, and hooked Mohammed Shami. The last-named quickly ended the Australian first innings, luring consecutive edges from Head and Hazlewood.

At that critical juncture, India and Australia were on par. But as the visitor’s lead took decisive shape, fortunes are perhaps swinging India’s way. There is a rain-forecast for Sunday morning but with the Test having two days to spare, a result is inevitable.