Having scored 302 runs in one-day play — a remarkable 144 in the post-tea session — the playing surface ceases to be part of any discussion of sub-standard pitches.
Taking a cue from the way Axar Patel and R. Ashwin lifted India from 139 for seven with a 114-run stand to keep the hosts alive in the contest and Travis Head produced some blistering strokeplay , the better batters in both camps can get past the pitch-talk and bat better in the second innings.
Better hitting is key
As things stood after two days of hard-fought second Test at the Kotla here, Australia edged India in the first innings and then raced out for 61 for the loss of the wicket of Usman Khawaja. With three days to go, Australia lead by 62 runs with nine wickets in hand.
With an even match in the first innings, the match was set to be decided on superior batting performance in the second innings. At one stage, Australia looked well within sight of a 100-plus lead but the counter-attack launched by Axar and Ashwin turned the script on its head. Axar led this left-right hammering by the Aussies. The left-hander hit three sixes and nine fours in Ashwin’s five boundaries after just 11 fours and six hits before they joined hands.
However, the new ball brought an abrupt end to the Indian innings. Just on the threshold of pulling India ahead, both fell to stunning catches. Matt Renshaw was turned by Ashwin’s glance before Pat Cummins pulled off a powerful strike at mid-off to end Axar’s innings.
On Saturday morning, after Matt Renshaw came on as a concussion substitute for David Warner for the rest of the Test, Nathan Lyon (five for 67) busted India’s top-order with a four-wicket haul spread across 26 deliveries to pull the house down. team from 46 for no loss to 66 for four.
Following a sensational spell, Lyon took a flattering figure of four for 12 and joined James Anderson and Muttiah Muralitharan as bowlers with 100 Test wickets against India. A struggling KL Rahul was leggy before playing defensively forward. Rohit Sharma played and lost his middle stump.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s charming stay ended in seven deliveries after a review confirmed that the ball hit the pad first.
Shreyas Iyer’s hard flick went to short-leg where it hit the left wrist, midriff, of Peter Handscomb, bounced off the forearm to his right before ending up in an unlucky dismissal.
The repair job began with a 59-run fifth-wicket stand, involving Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja, but ended by triggering a mini-collapse. The ball beats Jadeja’s defensive bat to catch him leg. Soon, a long-reviewed decision followed the umpire’s call to reinstate Kohli.
Lyon got his fifth when KS Bharat’s sweep saw the ball balloon off the glove for a simple catch for Steve Smith, behind the wicketkeeper.
After that, for nearly 30 overs, the Axar-Ashwin show kept Australia at bay.