Lyon puts India on the backfoot

Ravindra Jadeja and Wriddhiman Saha, the men occupying the crease, hold the key to the contest after the Aussie spinner grabs four wickets to keep the visiting team alive in the game.

Nathan Lyon celebrates the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara.   -  Reuters

Kapil Dev still feels the pain of missing the Calcutta Test against England in 1984-85. He was dropped, not on account of an injury, but having played a shot that cost his wicket as India went on to lose the match. Sandeep Patil had made a similar error and was axed too, never to play a Test again.

By the same token, does K. L. Rahul, a batsman of huge potential, deserve a rap on the knuckle for the poor stroke that threw away all his good work?

Rahul’s dismissal stood out sorely on a day of intense cricket at the HPCA Stadium here as Australia made India earn every run. India resumed the second day of the match at zero for no loss and finished at 248 for six, leaving the decider, given the two-paced character of the pitch, in a state of uncertainty. India needs 53 runs more to nudge ahead of Australia’s first innings total of 300.

Full scoreboard and ball-by-ball details

The discipline that marked Australia’s bowling was commendable. India’s start was slow as Australia attacked with vigour. The fast bowlers were prompted by the bounce to pack more pace and look to unnerve the batsmen—Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara. They did have their moments of dominance with fast bowler Pat Cummins asking questions of the batsmen.

Lyon: This team is good enough to get the work done here

Pujara and Rahul steadied the innings after the loss of a shaky Murali Vijay. The opener was not in his elements and was set up by Josh Hazlewood, who persistently explored the angle outside off. It was a combat that went the bowler’s way and brought Pujara to the middle.

He would be the first-choice for any captain for Pujara never plays for himself. Not the most attractive batsman to watch but amazingly committed to the team, Pujara showed the way for Rahul, who appeared in a hurry to establish his credentials. The crowd relished the battle of attrition—the bowler pounding or turning the ball and the batsmen displaying the acumen to deal with the challenge.

Rahul is a compulsive stroke-player but his approach need not work always. He had ample time, more than the rest in his team, to decide the course of the shot. He was, however, often tempted to play away from the body even though it brought him measured success. The presence of a dogged Pujara had no calming impact on Rahul who refused to adapt.

Read: India v Australia, Day two: Statistical highlights from Fourth Test

Having done a decent job of repairing the Indian innings, Rahul, in a show of poor temperament, fell into the trap of fast bowler Cummins. Rahul was peppered with short ball and verbal volleys, enough to rattle his concentration. His intended pull ended at mid-off and once again exposed the elegant opener’s shot-selection. His knock had different hues, classy at times, but his execution process remained disappointing. He lost a chance to not only craft a century but also place India in a formidable position.

Lack of big scores not a worry for Rahul

Pujara played his role to perfection, firming one end up, and making batting look easy. Unruffled and building on his confidence, he played all bowlers with ease, at times giving himself the liberty to play a few shots. His dismissal in the first over after tea provided the impetus to Australia, which picked four wickets in the last session, all coming off-spinner Nathan Lyon’s way.

For India, after 64 and 89 in the first sessions, the final yielded 95 runs despite the loss of Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Karun Nair in quick succession.

Rahane, basking in his new role as captain, arrived with an approach similar to Rahul. There was an inexplicable hurry to unnerve the Australian attack with a flurry of shots that did not befit the occasion. Rahane was troubled by the bounce even though the pitch remained good to bat on. He lived dangerously and it was not a knock Rahane could take pride in though a six and seven boundaries adorned his unconvincing innings. Ravindra Jadeja and Wriddhiman Saha, the men occupying the crease, hold the key to the contest.

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