The Perth wicket continued to assist the bowlers in a big way. KL Rahul and Murali Vijay were undone by swing at pace. Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon probed away accurately, yet, at the end of the day, Virat Kohli’s 20th fifty and Ajinkya Rahane’s enterprising 17th fifty lifted India and ensured their deficit was just 154 runs at the end of day 2. Kohli’s discipline and Rahane’s enterprise, combined with the nagging accuracy and sustained intensity of the Australian bowlers ensured that this was an absorbing day, with India slightly ahead. This did not look the case at all for India at the start as the Australian tail threatened to grind India’s pacers down.
Tim Paine and Pat Cummins scored runs at frequent intervals and they pushed Australia’s total past 300. Both batsmen looked at ease as the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma probed away without any success. At one point, it looked like the Australian lower order would hurt India in the same way like they did in Adelaide. However, Umesh Yadav, who was erratic on day 1, produced the first breakthrough when he breached Cummins’ defence for 19. The 59-run stand had given Australia a platform for a score in excess of 350 but Bumrah, by far the best bowler in the Test, trapped Paine LBW for 39 and even the review could not save the Australian skipper. Ishant plucked out the remaining wickets quickly and Australia ended up with a middling 326 score.
Disaster for India
With the pitch still fresh and conducive to fast bowling, Australia had their tail up and they struck at the stroke of lunch when Mitchell Starc went through Vijay’s (0) defence with an 87 mph inswinger. Following the break, things did not get easy and KL Rahul, who was under immense pressure to perform, was undone by an outswinging yorker from Josh Hazlewood to be out for 2.
Kohli came out to bat but he was probably reassured by the solid presence of Cheteshwar Pujara, the hero of the Adelaide Test. The captain set the tone of his intent by straight-driving Hazlewood off the second ball he faced to the long on fence. Kohli targeted Hazlewood and he flicked him for three boundaries in the over.
Kohli grinds Australia
With Pujara wearing the opposition bowlers down with solid defence, Kohli continued to score at a decent pace. However, Australia also tightened up their lines and there was a period for close to 20 overs where a boundary was hard to come by. Cummins, getting movement and extra bounce from the deck, troubled the Indian batsmen and beat the outside edge plenty of times. The pressure built by Cummins got the reward when Starc strangled Pujara down the leg side as the 74-run stand ended.
However, Ajinkya Rahane showed his intent and he took on the short ball. He upper-cut a short ball from Starc to third man and glanced a similar ball to the leg side. The shackles were broken in style when Rahane upper-cut Starc over the ropes at third man. If there was a moment which swung momentum towards India, that was it. Kohli continued to play with intensity and notched up his 20th fifty. Rahane also brought up an attacking fifty, his 17th overall as India ended the day on top. A Kohli special on Sunday could put India on the path to something more glorious and could give the Indians plenty to smile about.