Kolkata: It took less than two weeks for the tide to turn in favour of India - once again proving cricket can be a great leveller. Barely 10 days after they were shot out for 36 on a disastrous morning in Adelaide, their bowlers have set up a platform for what could be a series-levelling victory against Australia on third day of the second Test at Melbourne on Monday.
Suddenly, there seems to be a number of chinks in Australia’s armour. Their batsmen have now failed to surpass 200 in three of the four innings of the series and what’s more worrying is the woeful form of Steve Smith, the prolific batsman with the best Test average in contemporary cricket. Bumrah bowled the former captain around his legs for eight shortly after the tea- break and Smith is yet to reach double figures this series, with scores of one and one not out in Adelaide and a duck in the first innings in Melbourne.
After India were bowled out for 326 before lunch to the hosts’ first innings total of 195, Indian bowlers struck at regular intervals to leave Australia 133 for six at stumps, clinging to a lead of two runs with two full days to go.
Losing Umesh Yadav to a calf injury after lunch, allrounder Ravindra Jadeja chipped in with two wickets and seamers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj took one apiece to thwart any Australian hope of coming back in the game.
Rookie allrounder Cameron Green, 17 not out, and tailender Pat Cummins, on 15, showed defiance to shut India’s bowlers out late in the day but Australia face a massive task to set the tourists a proper chase.
With Smith and opener Matthew Wade at the crease, Australia had resumed at 65 for two after tea, still hopeful of mowing down a 66-run deficit and setting India a task for victory.
Bumrah nipped their 29-run partnership in the bud by bowling Smith and then sent a short ball crashing into the back of Wade’s helmet, the lefthander ducking and turning his head in a fruitless attempt to dodge it.
Wade was soon given out lbw by Jadeja for 40 and blew the second of Australia’s reviews before departing.
His wicket triggered a collapse with Travis Head (17) and Tim Paine (1) falling in successive overs, the former nicking Siraj to the slips and the captain caught behind.
Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane lauded his bowlers but said there was work still to be done. “You want to back your gut feelings and go about it. The bowlers bowled really well and bowled in the right areas,” he told broadcasters.
“We still got four wickets to go, the game is not over yet. We have to come back tomorrow, bowl in the right areas and get the victory.”
To add to Australia’s share of problems for the rest of the series, Joe Burns’ place at the top of the order is in jeopardy after another cheap dismissal, the opener caught behind for four off Umesh and then blowing a review seeking to overturn it.
The out-of-form Queenslander also lasted only 10 balls in the first innings before being caught behind for a duck off Bumrah.
Marnus Labuschagne, who made 48 in the first innings, made another bright start but was outwitted by Ashwin to be out for 28 with an edge to slip.
Earlier, Rahane’s knock ended in the morning when Jadeja ran him out for 112 when he went for a single that was never there. It was a deflating end to a sparkling innings but Rahane is unlikely to hold a grudge given Jadeja’s wickets exposed Australia’s tail.
Australia (1st innings) 195
India (1st innings)
M. Agarwal lbw Starc 0
S. Gill c Paine b Cummins 45
C. Pujara c Paine b Cummins 17
A. Rahane Run Out Labuschagne 112
H. Vihari c Smith b Lyon 21
R. Pant c Paine b Starc 29
R; Jadeja c Cummins b Starc 57
R. Ashwin c Lyon b Hazlewood 14
U. Yadav c Smith b Lyon 9
J. Bumrah c Head b Lyon 0
M. Siraj Not Out 0
Extras (12b 6lb 2nb 0pen 2w) 22
Total (115.1 overs) 326 all out
Fall of Wickets : 1-0 Agarwal, 2-61 Gill, 3-64 Pujara, 4-116 Vihari, 5-173 Pant, 6-294 Rahane, 7-306 Jadeja, 8-325 Yadav, 9-325 Ashwin, 10-326 Bumrah
Bowling: Starc 26 5 78 3; Cummins 27 9 80 2; Hazlewood 23 6 47 1; Lyon 27.1 4 72 3; Green 12 1 31 0.
Australia (2nd innings)
M. Wade lbw Jadeja 40
J. Burns c Pant b Yadav 4
M. Labuschagne c Rahane b Ashwin 28
S. Smith b Bumrah 8
T. Head c Agarwal b Siraj 17
C. Green Not Out 17
T. Paine c Pant b Jadeja 1
P. Cummins Not Out 15
Extras (0b 0lb 3nb 0pen 0w) 3
Total (66.0 overs) 133-6
Fall of Wickets : 1-4 Burns, 2-42 Labuschagne, 3-71 Smith, 4-98 Wade, 5-98 Head, 6-99 Paine
Bowling: Bumrah 17 4 34 1; Umesh Yadav 3.3 0 5 1; Siraj 12.3 1 23 1; Ashwin 23 4 46 1; Jadeja 10 3 25 2