by Virat Bahri __
India has declared at 443/7, presenting Australia with a tough ask on a wicket that is beginning to show signs of variable bounce. It’s time to firmly press the advantage.
At stumps on the second day of the Melbourne test between India and Australia, there are many positives to draw. Our analysis earlier had predicted that India would drop either K L Rahul or Murali Vijay for the second test (more likely the latter).
The team management deserves credit for dropping both, and bringing in Mayank Agarwal to debut as opener with Hanuma Vihari. Mayank’s 76 (161 balls, 8×4, 1×6) was the highest score by an Indian batsman on debut vs Australia, beating the previous record of 51 by Dattu Phadkar, which dates back to 1947.
The openers helped see off the new ball and the script immediately took a better turn for India at Melbourne. Kohli and Pujara built on the strong base with a pivotal 170-run partnership for the third wicket, before the captain holed out to Finch at thirdman off Starc, partly troubled by a sore back for 82 (204 balls, 9×4).
Pujara moved on to score another fine century, his 17th in test cricket, overtaking Sourav Ganguly and equaling the tally of VVS Laxman. He was finally done in by uneven low bounce from a short-of-length Cummins delivery that took his off stump for a score of 106 (319 balls, 10×4). Rahane was a victim of uneven bounce as well, when he was adjudged LBW off the bowling of Lyon for 34 (76 balls, 2×4). Both these dismissals meant more headache than celebration for Australia, as they are signs of a deteriorating pitch.
Rohit Sharma (63* of 114 balls, 5×4) and Rishabh Pant (39 of 76 balls, 3×4) then carried on with a partnership of 76 for the sixth wicket. Towards the end of the day, Rohit seemed to be stepping into his zone, which seems to validate the experiment of having him at the number 6 position in the Indian Test team.
India finally declared at 443/7 after the wicket of Jadeja. Australia struggled through the final six overs of the day but managed to end at 8/0 at stumps.
The only shortcoming that one could point out with India was the slightly low scoring rate. We had predicted a 500+ total today, which would have been India’s first in overseas test matches in 2018.
But still, India’s bowlers have all the cards up their sleeve to put Australia on the back foot on Day 3. To actually win this match, the best way forward is to target an Australian follow on.
Stay tuned at 4:30 am tomorrow for another exciting day of Test cricket on Sony Six.