Riding on the partnership of Kohli and Rahane, India staged a comeback as it trail Australia by 154 runs at the stumps on Day 2.
If we are to extract one moment when pendulum swung India’s way today, it has to be the over when Virat Kohli struck three boundaries off Josh Hazelwood in the 10th over – two half volleys through mid-wicket and a drive on the up. With a fighting innings of 82 (181) along with Ajinkya Rahane (51), the duo steadied India’s ship after the visitors lost their openers within the first six overs.
After losing first two wickets, India were only 8 runs for the loss of two wickets. In came Kohli and the way he started his innings, easily dismissing the ball from its presence; it seemed he was batting on a completely different pitch. A pure class! And boy, he loves challenges, as if he thrives when situation becomes too demanding. Cheteshwar Pujara (24) too played a crucial innings and occupied the crease for a 73-run stand with Kohli to set the foundation of India’s total to 172-3 in the first innings on Day two.
Pujara’s score of 24 and the way he went about his innings may not look something of a swagger, but he contributed immensely with an extraordinary display of mental discipline and composure. In that process, he along with the captain successfully weathered difficult spells bowled by Starc and company.
The field placements before Pujara’s dismissal were apparent with a short leg and leg gully in place. He tickles a short ball down leg behind to the keeper, not the best way for any batsman in the world to get out. Before this, he did survive a scare after a ball by Cummins wrapped on his pads and Australian opting for a referral, which was eventually reversed.
The openers failed again as Murali Vijay was out for a duck while attempting a half defense-half drive shot to a delivery that came back sharply off Mitchell Starc. KL Rahul looked out of sorts completely and eventually got out on a ripper of a delivery by Josh Hazlewood. It was the late swing that Rahul failed to comprehend and got clean bowled.
Before the start of the series, the only hair in the soup among India’s troika – Kohli, Pujara, Rahane – was Rahane. The dressing room would be a happy place after witnessing his coming back to form. He started off rather quickly trying to have a go at every short delivery bowled by the Australians, but that was his way to set himself on the crease. The deputy stitched a crucial partnership of 90 runs with Kohli to put the visitors in a strong position.
All the three batsman batted very smartly, without worrying about periods of drying runs only to cash in later when the bowlers became tired. Cummins was the pick of the bowlers in Australian side as he constantly asked questions from Kohli on the off stump. Although Lyon’s spell could not be dismissed as he successfully helped his fast bowlers at the one end and did not leak runs, maintaining the much needed pressure. So much was his accuracy that Australia did not conceded a single boundary for 22 overs. Just few overs ago, Kohli had struck Hazelwood for three bourndaries.
Witnessing Lyon’s spell, the Indian team must be pondering over the decision of not including a spinner. Pujara, using his feet against him like he did in Adelaide, was a testimony to the fact of how much assistance was Lyon was getting from the pitch. At one point, Kohli survived an early scare in the 18th over when a ball missed the bails by a fraction of margin.
The score was hard earned by the batsmen today and credit must be given to the hosts for putting a fighting effort. In the post-lunch session India could only manage to score 12 runs.
Before India came into bat, Australia’s tail wagged admirably for some time with captain Tim Paine and Cummins stitching a crucial 59-run stand for the seventh wicket. Indian bowlers toiled hard for wickets before Ishant Sharma picked up Hazlewood and Starc. Australia lost its last four wickets in a span of just 16 runs before India enthralled the spectators in Perth with extraordinary stroke plays.