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Kohli and Rahane stall Australia

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15th December, 2018
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A gritty partnership from Indian batting stalwarts Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane yesterday brought India back into the second Test after their top order collapsed.

When India fell to 2-8 on a surface which at that stage was assisting the bowlers they were left with a power of work to do to haul in Australia’s first innings total of 326.

But Kohli (82*) teamed first with Cheteshwar Pujara (24 from 103 balls) and then Ajinkya Rahane (51*) to stall Australia’s momentum. Kohli was forced to work harder for his runs than he would be used to and showed admirable restraint to weather several spells of fine bowling.

By stumps he and Rahane were beginning to make the Australian bowlers toil on a Perth Stadium pitch which had settled down markedly after playing all sorts of tricks on Day 1. Yet Australia will know that a single wicket will bring to the crease rookie batsman Hanuma Vihari, followed by wildcard keeper-batsman Rishabh Pant and then an extremely weak Indian tail.

While Starc was not at his best with the new ball, Australia would have been delighted to get both Indian openers inside the first six overs. Murali Vijay continued his struggles against the Aussie left-armer, who has dismissed him in all three innings this series. Vijay has long had problems with getting opened up by Starc’s angle. It happened once more yesterday as the Indian went for an off drive only for an in swinger to pierce the big gap between bat and pad to rattle his stumps.

His opening partner, KL Rahul, was less culpable in his own dismissal. Josh Hazlewood bowled a searing yorker which swung late and away from Rahul to crash into middle and off stumps. That dismissal prompted an absorbing battle between the Australian attack and Indian stars Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara.

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Kohli struck four early boundaries to charge to 18 from ten balls. Then seamer Pat Cummins and off spinner Nathan Lyon turned the screws on Kohli and Pujara. Cummins conceded just two runs from his first 22 balls against the Indian skipper, probing away on a fifth stump line.

He and Lyon also kept in check Pujara, who never quite found a rhythm to his innings. In the end it was Starc, not one of this pair, who benefited from this pressure. A loose Starc offering down leg was tickled by Pujara to keeper Tim Paine.

Earlier, Paine and talented lower-order batsman Pat Cummins batted with nous and patience to frustrate the Indians in the opening hour. The Aussie pair grafted for 15 overs in adding 33 crucial runs in that time. While the Indians produced plenty of quality deliveries in this period, overall they were too short.

Virat Kohli plays a cover drive

(Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)

This was particularly so against Paine, who India buffeted with short balls throughout his knock of 38 from 89 balls. Although he was not always at ease against these rising deliveries, it was the fuller offerings which looked more likely to dislodge the Aussie captain.

So it was when Jasprit Bumrah pinned Paine LBW with a lovely off cutter. Only two balls prior it had been Umesh Yadav who prospered by pitching up when he castled Pat Cummins. While the home side will feel they should have made more than 350 considering the wickets they gifted India, it was still a fine total on what, during their innings at least, was a tricky batting surface.

The pitch continues to be the major unknown in this Test. It has gone from fairly placid to a minefield and then back to the former in the space of two days. Just how it will play in the third and fourth innings of this Test is anyone’s guess. India will be determined to earn themselves a tidy first-innings lead so they need not bat for too long on Day 4 or 5. Achieving that aim looks likely to rest largely with the two veterans currently at the crease.

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