DECEMBER 27, 2018
Brief Scorecard: Australia 8 for no loss (Harris 5*, Finch 3*) trail India 7 for 443 dec (Pujara 106, Kohli 82, Agarwal 76, Rohit 63*, Cummins 3-72) by 435 runs.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – On a day when the bowlers found no real purchase – barring the occasional uneven bounce – from the MCG surface, India continued their batting dominance, consolidating their overnight position of 2 for 215.
India rode on the back of a 170-run third-wicket stand between Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara – the overnight pair batted out the first session – before useful contributions from the middle order took them to 443 for 7. Their bowlers then kept Australia’s openers in check for six overs.
Australia collected five wickets on the day, and the manner of a couple of them will cause them to worry about the remainder of the game. Balls that stayed low accounted for Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, and instances of such misbehaviour are only likely to grow more frequent as the Test match wears on.
Nathan Lyon, so influential in Adelaide and Perth, struggled for a similar impact on a pitch with much less bounce for him to exploit. As on the first day, India’s batsmen comfortably negated the offspinner, using their feet to reach the pitch of the ball, and drove him through the covers or midwicket almost every time he went too full. A switch to round the wicket didn’t help Lyon either, and it took him nearly 40 overs to earn his first wicket of the game. By the time Lyon struck after tea, trapping Rahane lbw with a ball that kept low, India had already built handsomely on their first-day platform.
Kohli and Pujara began the day crisply, flicking and nudging to the long square boundary for a collection of threes, before settling in to protect their wicket. They weathered Australia’s bowlers, adding 62 runs before lunch and ensuring India’s second straight wicketless session.
After lunch, Kohli was troubled by a sore back that forced the physio Patrick Farhart onto the field. Kohli appeared to be struggling, getting down on his knees between deliveries. In an eventful over from Starc soon after the physio’s appearance, Kohli pulled in front of square for three, then hit another pull for four. By the time the over had ended, however, Kohli had steered an upper-cut right into the hands of third man. It was relief for Australia, a sedate celebration after almost 70 overs of no joy.
Pujara would have liked to build on his 17th Test hundred, but he received a delivery from Cummins that he could do little about. It snaked through low off the surface from just short of a good length, and slid under Pujara’s back-foot defence and took out off stump. Cummins didn’t celebrate too hard, perhaps aware that the uneven bounce could pose a danger to Australia’s batsmen too.
Pujara’s dismissal brought Rohit Sharma, who had missed the second Test due to injury, into the middle. He took the back seat early on, as Ajinkya Rahane took control till tea. Rohit looked comfortable in the middle – at one point his control percentage was 96 – but nearly fell against the run of play when he top-edged a sweep off Lyon. Substitute Peter Siddle, however, dropped a simple chance at backward square leg, handing him a reprieve on 16.
Following Rahane’s dismissal, Rohit went on to add 76 for the sixth wicket with the No. 7 Rishabh Pant, who also enjoyed a bit of good fortune, with Cummins dropping him at long-on off the luckless Lyon.
With Australia’s lead bowlers struggling for incision on the largely docile surface, Mitchell Marsh bowled a long spell of stump-to-stump medium-pace in the afternoon, with Tim Paine standing up to the stumps. Marsh finished as Australia’s most economical bowler, conceding only 56 off his 21 overs.
With the day coming to a close, Rohit finally began to hit out. He swatted a length ball to deep midwicket to bring up India’s 400, and celebrated his 10th Test fifty, his second in Australia, two overs later. Australia took the third new ball in the 166th over, with Starc and Hazlewood returning for another late spell, but the harder ball only made run-scoring easier for Rohit and Pant. Both creamed fours off one Starc over, before Pant fell for 39, miscuing a leg-side heave. Ravindra Jadeja was out the next over, and at 443 for 7 Kohli declared, having kept Australia on the field for nearly 170 overs.
Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris were left to face six tricky overs before stumps. There were two inside-edges in Ishant Sharma’s first over, and from the other end Jasprit Bumrah rattled Harris’s helmet with a short ball. The openers managed to survive this period, adding eight runs by stumps.