DECEMBER 16, 2018
Australia 326 and 4 for 132 (Khawaja 41*, Shami 2-23) lead India (Kohli 123, Lyon 5-67) by 175 runs
PERTH, AUSTRALIA – Virat Kohli rose above Australia’s attack and the day-three Perth pitch that had quickened up, but Nathan Lyon’s five-wicket haul earned the hosts a 43-run first-innings lead. Despite Aaron Finch retiring hurt at the stroke of tea after suffering a blow to his right index finger, Australia grew their lead to 175 and left India staring at a daunting chase on a track where the cracks were widening. After Lyon defeated Ajinkya Rahane in the first over of the day and then India’s longer-than-usual tail, Australia closed the day at 4 for 132.
Lyon set the tone, when he found drift to coax an outside edge from Rahane, who could not add to his overnight 51. Mitchell Starc then attempted to shake up Kohli with rapid short balls, including one 140kph rocket that landed on the India’s captain’s elbow. However, Kohli did not even flinch and went onto swat Lyon against the break through extra-cover.
In the first over after Australia had taken the second new ball, Kohli imperiously drove Starc straight of mid-off to raise his 25th Test hundred – and sixth in Australia. He celebrated the landmark by pointing his hand to the bat and making a yapping mouth gesture. He then crunched Starc and Lyon through the covers to remind everyone that the bat was doing all the talking.
Hanuma Vihari scrapped his way to 20 in a 50-run partnership with Kohli before Josh Hazlewood hit an in-between length and had him edging behind in the 86th over. Seven overs later, Kohli was given out in rather controversial fashion. After Pat Cummins sucked Kohli into a big drive away from the his body, the outside edge died on its way towards Peter Handscomb at second slip. Handscomb suggested that he had grabbed it cleanly, as did Kumar Dharmasena whose soft signal was out. The TV umpire Nigel Llong could not detect enough conclusive evidence to overturn Dharmasena’s call in a sequence of events that reignited the debate about soft signals. Kohli flung his helmet off while crossing the ropes, leaving India at 6 for 251, still 75 runs behind Australia’s first-innings 326.
Kohli’s wicket triggered a collapse as India lost their last five wickets for a mere 32 runs, with Lyon claiming the last four. Pant, who was skittish against pace, muscled Lyon for two boundaries, including a massive straight six. However, when Lyon dangled an offbreak wide outside off, Pant dragged a catch to long-on.
India’s innings ended when Lyon tricked Bumrah with a straighter one. He joined Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan as the only bowlers to have picked seven five-wicket hauls against India in Test cricket.
Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma then let it rip with the new ball, regularly hitting speeds upwards of 140kph while finding both swing and seam movement. But they lacked support from their fielders or Pant. Ishant could have had Harris on 1 when he squared him up and had him wafting behind, but Pant misjudged the chance, taking a couple of steps towards the leg side and leaving Cheteshwara Pujara with too much to do. Pujara threw himself to his right, but the ball eventually burst out.
Finch got a life on 9 when Ishant cramped him for room, but Pant could not grasp the glance despite a dive. Finch added 16 to his tally before a Bumrah delivery burst off the deck and pinged him on his right index finger – roughly the same area where he had twice been struck by Mitchell Starc in net sessions earlier in the summer. He subsequently retired hurt and was sent to the hospital for scans.
Harris, too, received a big scare when he was struck flush on the badge of his helmet by Bumrah. After Umesh Yadav leaked runs, Bumrah returned to tempt Harris into shouldering arms to a length ball that homed in and hit the top of off stump. Shan Marsh and Peter Handscomb also fell in quick succession, but Usman Khawaja, the suddenly senior player in the absence of both Steven Smith and David Warner, hit some form.
Travis Head lived on the edge before slashing to third man for the second time in the match. That reduced Australia to 4 for 120, but Khawaja’s unbeaten 41 helped push the lead towards 200 by stumps.
The day, though, belonged to Lyon, who could turn out to be the difference between the two sides in the fourth innings as well.