Melbourne Test: India lead Australia by 435 at stumps

Melbourne: India declared their first innings on 443 runs for the loss of seven on the second day of the third Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Thursday.

Top-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and skipper Virat Kohli strengthened the third-wicket partnership stand to power India to 277/2 at lunch. The morning session was highly successful for the visitors as India amassed 62 runs for no loss. Australian pacers comprising Pat Cummins, Mitchell Marsh, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and off-spinner Nathan Lyon failed to strike in the first session.

Kohli, who was stranded at 47 runs on the first day, completed his 20th Test fifty in 110 balls, while Pujara brought up his 17th Test hundred in 280 balls. It looked like another long session, as the Kohli-Pujara duo took the partnership to 160 runs.

The hosts Australia got their much-needed breakthrough as Starc’s short delivery sent Kohli back to the pavilion after making 82 runs off 204 balls, ending his partnership with Pujara at 172 runs. As Kohli hit what seemed to be a tired shot to guide a short delivery over the third man boundary, Aaron Finch caught a simple catch.

Adding a new feather to his already illustrious cap, Kohli with 1138 runs to his name surpassed Rahul Dravid’s 1137 runs (in 2002) to become highest-scoring Indian Test batsman on overseas soil in a calendar year.

Soon after Kohli’s departure, Pat Cummins clipped Pujara’s off stump and ended his magnificent innings that spanned nearly four sessions. The Indian batsman walked on 106 runs off 319 balls.

To retain the momentum, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma brought the 300-mark for the visitors comfortably. India added 69 runs in the session and reached 346 runs for the loss of four at tea.

The final session of the second day saw an exquisite late cut from Rahane, who brought up 350 for India. Sharma was given a lifeline by sub fielder Peter Siddle at short fine leg as he completely botched up a pull sweep shot and Siddle had put down a sitter. However, to get another relief, Lyon dismissed the vice-captain for 34. As Rahane looked to flick the ball away with the turn, it beat the inside edge and pinned him in front of middle and off.

Following Rahane’s departure, wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant came out to share the crease with the Hitman. Pant got lifeline off Lyon as Cummins was the guilty party at long-on.

India crossed the 400-mark for the loss of five. This was the first time they had achieved this score in 2018. Meanwhile, the Hitman too brought up his tenth Test fifty.

Starc struck to get his second wicket and this time it was Pant, who managed to score an exciting 39 before giving a catch to Usman Khawaja. Soon after the departure of Pant, as Ravindra Jadeja came on the crease, the all-rounder (4) was caught behind by wicket-keeper Tim Paine on Josh Hazlewood’s delivery.

The dismissal of Jadeja prompted Kohli to declare on 443 runs for the loss of seven, while Rohit remained unbeaten on 63 off 114 balls.

Cummins scalped three wickets and Starc picked two wickets on the second day. While Hazlewood and Lyon got a piece each.

Chasing the target 444, Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris came out to crease to take guard for the hosts. After six overs stumps were drawn and Australia ended the day on eight runs for no loss. Finch and Harris remained unbeaten on five and three respectively. Australia trail by 435 runs.