Australia Perth Test: Kohli anchors innings after slippery start

Perth: Skipper Virat Kohli played a pivotal role with a workmanlike 82, lifting India from a double-blow at the beginning of the innings to 172 for three on the second day of the second Test against Australia here today.

Kohli’s unbeaten knock, coupled with Ajinkya Rahane’s counterattacking 51, helped India not only overcome the cheap dismissals of Murali Vijay (0) and K L Rahul (2), but also put the visitors in a position from where they will look to dominate the rest of the game.

The India captain stitched a 90-run unbroken partnership with Rahane during stumps, the stand coming after he added 74 with Adelaide hero Cheteshwar Pujara (24) for the third wicket.

This was after Australia’s tail wagged to add 49 runs to their overnight total to finish at 326. India trailed by 154 runs.

Post tea, Kohli and Pujara (24) batted in much the same manner as they did in the previous session. Their pace of scoring was slow, but they batted with assurance until Mitchell Starc (2-42) provided the breakthrough. It came seven overs after the tea break as Pujara glanced a delivery down leg only to be caught behind, as his 74-run partnership with Kohli for the third wicket came to an end.

Rahane then joined Kohli in the middle, and, initially, he faced some issues getting used to the pace and bounce of the pitch. Unlike Pujara, though, he took the bowling head on and counter-attacked with two boundaries and a six. It set the pace for his partnership with Kohli, who was solid at the other end, and grinding down the Australian attack.

The Indian skipper reached his 20th Test half-century off 109 balls as India crossed 100 in the 43rd over. Their 50-partnership came off 106 balls as the duo settled down to see off the last hour before stumps. They cut down on the risks even more, only occasionally coming forth to play their shots.

In doing so, Rahane reached his 17th Test half-century before end of play as the two batsmen were sure in their shot selection and avoided any further damage to the Indian innings. Earlier, Kohli and Pujara had seen India to 70 for two at tea.

Post lunch, India were immediately under the pump as Josh Hazlewood (1-50) knocked over KL Rahul (2) in the third over after resumption of play. Rahul was in two minds about how to play a full delivery aimed on the off-stump and was beaten all ends up as the ball destroyed his stumps.

It brought Kohli and Pujara together at the crease, and the duo concentrated on defence in order to push back the Australian attack.

The session turned out to be an intense battle with Nathan Lyon (0-34) keeping both batsmen under wraps as they tried not to play too many strokes against the off-spinner. At the other end, Kohli also contended with Hazlewood who bowled an extended spell.

The star batsman stood outside the crease and moved early on his front foot to deny any chance of a repeat with what happened at Rahul’s dismissal. They made slow progress, adding 37 runs in the first hour of play after lunch, and their 50-partnership came up in 135 balls. India had crossed 50 in the 22nd over.

There were a few more shots towards the end of this session, but overall Australia kept a tight leash on proceedings with both set batsmen deciding not to counter-punch. Earlier, India were placed at six for one at lunch with Starc bowling Murali Vijay for a 12-ball duck. This was after Ishant Sharma’s 4-41 helped the visitors bowl Australia out for 326 runs in their first innings.

Starting from overnight 277-6, Australia added 49 runs to their total for the loss of four wickets. Tim Paine (38) and Pat Cummins (19) frustrated Indian bowling and enhanced their eighth wicket partnership to 59 runs. In doing so, they took Australia past 300 in the 100th over.

For their part, India were guilty of bowling too short again and there weren’t enough full deliveries attacking the stumps or making batsmen play. India were content with keeping a lid on the scoring as only 29 runs came in the first hour of play.

They started the day’s proceedings with Ishant and Mohammed Shami (0-80), with Umesh Yadav (2-78) starting as first change. Jasprit Bumrah (2-53), who was India’s standout bowler on day one, was the fourth to bowl in an inexplicable tactic from the skipper. Finally, Yadav got the breakthrough with an over of full deliveries, knocking off Cummins’ off-stump in the 105th. Two balls later, Bumrah trapped Paine lbw and the decision stayed despite a DRS review from the batsman.

Nathan Lyon (9 not out) stayed unbeaten for the third innings in a row as he added quickfire 16 runs with Mitchell Starc to push Australia to a healthy total on a tough wicket. Ishant then finished off things with two wickets in two balls, with Starc and Josh Hazlewood (0) caught behind with some acrobatic help from Rishabh Pant.