Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane drove his luck to reach a gritty unbeaten century when India built an ominous 82-point lead over Australia on day two to strangle the second test in Melbourne on Sunday. It was a determined and crucial blow against a world-class attack by the gentle 32-year-old, who took over from Virat Kohli’s captain after returning home for the birth of his first child. He hit to four and got 200 balls for his 104 to send India to 277 for five before the rain ended 15 minutes early. Ravindra Jadeja was not in his 40s.
The hosts only took four wickets during a frustrating day in the field as the match began to slip, with India leveling the streak after losing the first Test by eight wickets in Adelaide.
Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins both took two wickets.
While Rahane was the hero, it was a brave team effort, with three 50-plus-wicket partnerships to silence their critics after India was criticized for their low of 36 last week.
On a steamy and cloudy day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, they moved on to 36 for one in response to Australia’s first innings in 195, having endured 11 overs on Saturday when they lost Mayank Agarwal to a duck.
In an action-packed morning, the Australian offensive consistently reached its line and length, with Pat Cummins bagging impressive debutant Shubman Gill for 45 and then veteran Cheteshwar Pujara for 17.
That brought Rahane into the fold and – first with Hanuma Vihari, then Rishabh Pant and finally Jadeja – he built half-century grandstands to put India in a strong position.
He brought up his 12th Testton in his 67th game and his second in Melbourne, with a four on Cummins, but he enjoyed a bit of luck.
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Australia removed the first slip on Starc’s first spell in the last session and regretted Rahane getting a 57 lead which almost certainly would have been caught if the fielder was there.
He had a huge letdown at 73 when he was dropped by Steve Smith on the second slip and again at 104 when the ball came out of Travis Head’s hands when he landed after taking the ball.
Jadeja, back on the team after missing the first Test injured, ably supported Rahane on the other side after Vihari fell for 21 trying to beat Nathan Lyon, with Smith taking the catch.
That brought the exuberant Pant to the fold. Preferred to Wriddhiman Saha as a wicket-keeper, he scored a light-hearted 29 before becoming Starc’s 250th Test wicket, caught by Tim Paine for his 150th dismissal.
India was reduced to 64 for three for lunch after Cummins caused all sorts of trouble.
He indicated his intention with the first ball of the day, which rushed past Pujara’s bat. Paine called for a review, believing it took a nickname, but reruns showed it wasn’t out.
Gill also survived a shock the first time he was confronted by Paine being guilty, and failed to hold on to a tough catch on Josh Hazlewood.
Cummins finally got the wicket he deserved when Gill, who added 17 to his night score after being favored as opener for the ax Prithvi Shaw, got a nick and Paine took a simple catch.
Then he removed Pujara and again enticed a lead with Paine with a superb dive catch.
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