Australia doubled down to grab a stranglehold over India on the second day of the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final here on Thursday.
India did well to restrict Australia to 469, but a top-order collapse left the side in a hole. The Australian pacers stuck to their well-worked plans to reduce India to 151 for five.
A 71-run fifth-wicket stand between Ravindra Jadeja (48, 51b, 7x4, 1x6) and Ajinkya Rahane (29 n.o., 71b, 4x4) gave India hope in the evening session. Veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon, in his second over, demoralised the opposition by removing Jadeja twenty minutes before close of play.
India, which trails by 318 runs, needs a herculean effort from Rahane and K.S. Bharat (5 n.o., 14b) to stay afloat.
Opener Rohit Sharma started well, swivelling back to pull Mitchell Starc for a boundary in the second delivery of the essay. Starc continued to test Rohit with short balls, and the captain was more than willing to take on the deep fine-leg fielder.
Rohit (15) looked in good touch, before a length ball from Pat Cummins caught him on the pads.
Shubman Gill, the toast of the cricketing world, got off the mark with an exquisite cover-drive. The Punjab batter followed up with a tennis-style slap over mid-on.
Australian skipper Cummins brought Scott Boland into the attack in just the fifth over - a clear indication that the side had done its homework on Gill. The move worked, as Boland sent Gill back in dramatic fashion. Gill shouldered arms to an in-dipper, only to find the ball crash into the stumps.
There was hardly time to digest this shock dismissal as Cheteshwar Pujara fell in similar fashion. Cameron Green produced the scalp this time, taking out Pujara’s off-stump. Both Gill and Pujara stayed well inside the line - with no ‘back and across’ feet movement - and paid the price.
It was a particularly disappointing ending for Pujara, who spent considerable time playing for Sussex in the County Championship. Pujara was best prepared to tackle these conditions, but a moment of indecision was all it took for a premature end.
The 23,600-odd spectators cheered loudly when Virat Kohli walked in at number four. Kohli gave the crowd some joy when he strode forward to hit his patented cover-drive. An unplayable snorter from Starc, however, silenced his supporters. Starc got one to jump from a length, catching Kohli on the shoulder of the bat. Steve Smith held on at second slip to spark big celebrations in the Aussie camp.
The Indian bowlers shone bright in the morning session, taking the seven remaining Australian wickets for 142 runs. Mohammed Siraj was fired up and ready for a challenge, firing bouncers at overnight batter Travis Head. The southpaw succumbed to the short-ball plan, gloving a pull to wicketkeeper Bharat.
Smith struck a couple of boundaries to register his hundred. He was annoyed when he dragged a harmless delivery from Shardul Thakur onto timber.
Green flashed at a wide delivery from Mohammad Shami to offer a sharp catch to Gill at slip. Alex Carey’s attempted reverse-sweep was adjudged leg-before, while the tailenders offered little resistance.
Siraj, the spark which lit the fire in the Indian attack, finished with four wickets.
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