(Updates after India’s victory)
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE, Dec. 29 (Reuters) – A rejuvenated India, rid of Virat Kohli, turned the situation in Australia to win the second test in Melbourne with a thrilling eight-wicket victory in four days and breathe life into the series.
Needing just 70 points for the win after beating Australia for 200 at lunch, opener Shubman Gill (35 not out) and alternate captain Ajinkya Rahane (27 not out) guided India home to tie the series at 1-1 before the third. test.
After beating India for 36 points in the landslide eight-wicket victory in Adelaide, the Australian pacemen entered with their usual vigor but were repelled by a belligerent Gill, who made a strong debut as opener of ‘test.
The match belonged to Rahane, however, who took over the captaincy after Adelaide when the regular skipper Kohli returned to India for the birth of his first child.
Named man of the match, Rahane superbly assembled a rejuvenated squad and appropriately hit winning spinner Nathan Lyon before tea, sending Indian fans in raptures in the 13,000-strong crowd.
Two years after crushing an exhausted 137-point Australia in the Boxing Day test, India’s bowlers once again had the measure of their opponents at the MCG wicket.
Tourists crossed Australia for 195 in the first innings and capped them to 200 in the second, despite losing paceman Umesh Yadav, who only managed a handful of overs before launching with a stump calf at the start of the third day.
Seaman Mohammed Siraj filled the gap superbly, taking 3-37 in the second set and five wickets in total in a stellar test start.
Recalled, Ravindra Jadeja also contributed with three wickets in the test, going 2-28 in the second inning, having contributed 57 with the bat in the first inning of India 326.
Rounding out the selectors’ triumph, goaltender Rishabh Pant recalled, the fourth change to 11, scored a precious 29.
Australian selectors are hopeful that regular opener David Warner will be fit to play after Joe Burns’ twin failures (0 and 4) with bat.
Tailenders Starc (14 not released), Pat Cummins (22) and Hazlewood (10) showed firmer resistance than several of their batting teammates to push Australia to 200 for the first time in the series.
Reduced to 99 for six on day three, however, Australia’s weak hopes of putting India in a full-blown pursuit were stifled when young all-rounder Cameron Green lifted a short ball from Siraj and was caught by a Jadeja leaping for 45.