India rip through Australian batting to eye series-levelling win
A depleted Indian attack ripped through Australia’s top order to leave the world’s number one team with a slender two-run lead and in deep trouble on Monday after day three of the second Test.
At stumps in Melbourne, Australia were 133 for six with Cameron Green on 17 and Pat Cummins on 15 in their second innings as the visitors zeroed in on levelling the series after losing the first Test by eight wickets.
India are doing so with a weakened attack after Umesh Yadav pulled up in his fourth over with a calf problem, limping off the field.
It was a setback for India, who were already missing injured regulars Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma. But the remaining bowlers, led by Ravindra Jadeja (2-25) and Jasprit Bumrah (1-34), admirably picked up the slack.
“I think we played really well. I thought the bowlers came out really strong and bowled in all the right areas. It was good to see,” said India captain Ajinkya Rahane.
“But this game is not over yet, we still have to get four more wickets.”
India were all out for 326 in their first innings on the stroke of lunch, adding just 49 to their overnight 277 for five in reply to Australia’s 195.
It gave them a 131-run lead, courtesy of Rahane’s magnificent 112 and Jadeja’s 57. Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon took three wickets each.
Australia needed some of their big names to stand tall in the run chase.
Opener Matthew Wade did well with a fighting 40 off 137 balls before being trapped lbw by the spin of Jadeja.
But Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and Joe Burns all failed.
Burns lasted just 10 balls, caught by Rishabh Pant off Yadav for four to follow his first-innings duck.
Even if David Warner fails to recover from a groin strain for the next Test in Sydney, it will be hard for selectors to again justify picking Burns, with Marcus Harris among those waiting in the wings.
Labuschagne fell for 28, caught by Rahane off a thick edge from Ravi Ashwin.
At the other end, the usually flamboyant Wade dug in but Smith again went cheaply, bowled by Bumrah for eight.
After Wade departed, Travis Head was the last recognised batsman but he became a victim of paceman Mohammed Siraj on debut, slashing a ball to Mayank Agarwal.
Captain Tim Paine fell to Jadeja for one, leaving Green and Cummins to knuckle down in a 34-run partnership and take the Test into a fourth day.
“Cummins is not an established batsman, but he has done well for us at this ground in the past and we all know what Greenie is capable of if he can get in,” said Wade.
“So it’d be really good for these two to get a nice partnership together, which we haven’t done over this Test match.” He added that setting India a target of “anything over a 100 will be good”.
India started the day at a chilly Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 24,995 socially-distanced fans with an 82-run advantage after taking charge Sunday with a gutsy response to their embarrassing 36 all out in Adelaide.
But Australia quickly made inroads.
Rahane, captain in place of Virat Kohli who has returned home for the birth of his first child, rode his luck on day two, when he was dropped on 73 and 104.
But after adding eight to his overnight 104, brilliant awareness from Labuschagne saw him run out.
Jadeja, back in the team after missing the first Test injured, dabbed Nathan Lyon to point and set off for a single as he looked to bring up his 50. Rahane responded but wasn’t quick enough with Paine whipping off the bails after Labuschagne’s throw.
It ended a 121-run partnership and one of the 32-year-old’s most important innings, having come to the crease with India in trouble at 64 for three.
Jadeja brought up his 15th Test half-century before misjudging a Starc bouncer, then Lyon and Josh Hazlewood mopped up the tail.