Mitchell Starc. Pic/ AFP
KL Rahul showed resilience at the crease and scored an important half-century before throwing it away to O’Keefe for 65. Two balls later the left-arm spinner got Rahane caught in the slips and in the same over dismissed Saha to reduce India to 95/7 on Day 2.
Nathan Lyon took the wicket of R Ashwin in the very next over with India trailing by 165 runs with 3 wickets remaining
India were pushed on the back foot by Australian pace bowlers as the hosts were struggling at 70 for three wickets in their first innings, in reply to the visitors’ 260, on the second day morning of the first cricket Test, here today.
India, who polished off the last Australian wicket for the addition of just four runs in the fifth ball of the morning, were put on the ropes by left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc and his pace partner Josh Hazlewood.
Hazlewood, who did not use the new ball and replaced Starc in the seventh over, got the first breakthrough in his opening over by packing off Murali Vijay, who was caught behind for 10 with 26 on board.
Starc then came back for his second spell to snap up the key wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara (6) and captain Virat Kohli for a duck in just three balls to leave the hosts gasping at 44 for three.
Hazlewood removed in-form opener Vijay with a ball that moved in a shade and took the bat’s outside edge as the batsman poked at it in the seventh over of the innings. Starc, then, stunned the hosts with a double strike in the first over of his second spell. He first packed off another in-form Cheteshwar Pujara (6), with an unplayable snorter that the batsman gloved to Wade, while taking evasive action.
The lanky pacer then struck the biggest blow of the morning by removing Kohli, who came into the game on the back of scoring over four double centuries in four of the last five series played, for a second-ball duck.
The India captain, who had average 80 plus after tallying 1457 runs in the last 13 Tests, was lured to drive a wide ball angling away delivery of Starc, only to nick it to his opposite number Steven Smith at first slip.
The batting of opener K L Rahul (47 not out in 80 balls) was the lone bright spot of India’s reply before lunch as he nudged the fast men off his pads and drove them through the covers when they over-pitched. He showed his attacking instincts against spin by stepping out to Steve O’Keefe to loft the left-arm spinner over the straight field for the first six of the innings.
Rahul also played a reverse sweep off Nathan Lyon that fetched him a four to remain unconquered, three short of 50. Rahul, who batted with composure and poise at the other end, was batting along side Ajinkya Rahane (6 in 27 balls) at the break. The hosts were 190 runs behind the visitors’ first innings total at the break.
Rahul struck one six and seven fours in his confident knock. Starc had figures of 2 for 22 at lunch while the miserly Hazlewood had 1 for 11.
Earlier in the morning, it took Ashwin just five balls to dismiss the last Australian wicket when he induced a wild shot from Starc only to be holed out to deep mid-wicket.
Starc, who unbeaten on 57 off 58 balls overnight in a team total of 256 for nine, departed for 61 off 63 balls, and his pulverizing knock included three sixes and six fours. With Starc’s scalp, Ashwin also went past the great Kapil Dev’s record most Test wickets in a home season. Ashwin’s tally of 64 wickets in 10 Test matches at home went past Kapil’s earlier mark of 63 wickets in 13 Tests created way back on 1979-80 at the beginning of the great all-rounder’s career.
While Ashwin ended up with three victims, Umesh Yadav was the best bowler for India with superb figures of 4 or 32, his best figures at home and second-best overall after the 5 for 93 he took against the same opponents in Perth in January 2012 on his debut.
However, the Indians’ delight at ending the Australian innings, which had unexpectedly bloomed bigger from a struggling 205 for nine due to Starc’s counter-hitting last evening, was nipped in the bud when they lost three of their top scoring batsmen, including captain Kohli, within the first 15 overs.