Indore: Indian batters once again struggled against the Australian spinners as the hosts were placed at a precarious 79 for four in their second innings at tea on day two of the third Test here Thursday.
India still trail Australia by nine runs and will need to set at least a 150-run target for the visitors for a fight. India, who have lost only two Tests at home in the last 10 years, are staring at a rare loss in their own backyard.
The hosts, who collapsed to 109 on Wednesday, bowled Australia out for 197 in the morning session.
Shubman Gill (5), coming into the side in place of K L Rahul, suffered his second failure of the game after getting beaten in the flight by Nathan Lyon. He went for an ugly hoick but ended up getting castled.
Lyon also got rid of India skipper Rohit Sharma (12), who was trapped in front after misjudging the length of the ball.
Virat Kohli’s (13) shot selection too was questionable as he was adjudged LBW after attempting a pull off left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann on a track offering spin and uneven bounce.
Cheteshwar Pujara (36 batting off 76) by far looked the most solid of the Indian batters and used his feet brilliantly.
Ravindra Jadeja (7) falling lbw to Lyon at the stroke of tea made matters worse for the home team. Lyon was all over the Indian left-hander in that over and ended up getting a DRS call in his favour.
For India, the only positive was Pujara’s assured batting against Lyon and Kuhnemann. He hit the first boundary of the innings, a cover drive, by stepping out to Lyon.
He mostly played on the front foot but stayed back to put a short ball from Kuhnemann away between mid-on and mid-wicket. Four balls later, he came down the track for a confident straight drive.
In the morning session, the pace-spin combination of Umesh Yadav and R Ashwin ran through the Australian batting line-up.
After a rather quiet first hour, when only 30 runs were scored in 16 overs without any wicket, India lost their last six wickets for just 11 runs after starting the day at 156 for four.
Ashwin and Yadav took three wickets each to script India’s fightback after a forgettable opening day when the hosts were all out for 109.
Considering the conditions, Australia did well to take a crucial 88-run first innings lead.
Though India did not pick up any wicket in the first hour, they did not allow Peter Handscomb (19 off 98) and Cameron Green (21 off 57) easy runs with Mohammed Siraj and Jadeja keeping things tight.
As it has been the case throughout the series, the wickets came in a heap after India broke the resistance of Handscomb, whose ultra defensive innings came to end with an inside edge flying to Iyer at short-leg off Aswhin.
Ashwin surprisingly had to wait for almost an hour to get his first over of the day and when he did, the wily operator made the ball talk.
He got also rid of Alex Carey (3) and Lyon (5) to end with figures of three for 44 in 20.3 overs.
Umesh, who targeted the stumps successfully, trapped Green in front by getting one to straighten slightly off middle-stump in his very first over.
He cleaned up the tail by bowling fast and straight from round the wicket, leaving Mitchell Starc (1) and Toddy Murphy clueless (0).
Compared to the opening day, the ball did not do too much in the first hour with Handscomb and Green focussed on playing the forward defence.
It was only in the 10th over of the day that Green decided to step out and hit Jadeja over mid-on for a boundary.
Siraj opened the bowling with two short mid-wickets in place. The plan was to bowl straight and stem the flow of runs.
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