Ton of character


Melbourne, December 27

Captain Ajinkya Rahane scored a workmanlike unbeaten century that steered India into a dominant position on the second day of the second Test against Australia here today.

Trailing 0-1 in the four-match series, India ended the day at 277/5 for a handy 82-run lead, scoring 241 runs today for the loss of four wickets today, taking the sting out of Australia’s potent fast bowling attack.

When the stumps were drawn early due to rain, Rahane was going strong on 104 and giving him company was Ravindra Jadeja on 40. The two have added 104 crucial runs for the sixth wicket and how much further can they take their partnership would determine India’s target in the fourth innings.

2nd 100 at MCG

Rahane’s 12th Test hundred, and his second at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, was crucial as two quick blows by Pat Cummins had reduced India from 61/1 to 64/3. With Rahane and No. 5 Hanuma Vihari both on 0, their first task was to prevent a collapse.

To begin with, Rahane was extremely circumspect but as the day progressed, he played some sumptuous shots, and one off-drive for four off Cummins had all Australian and Indian fans in the ground cheering in admiration.

Vihari fell to off-spinner Nathan Lyon while trying to sweep him from outside off-stump after he had added 52 runs with his captain. In came Pant and despite the constant scrutiny around him, he showed no nerves and confidently went about playing his strokes. Rahane blunted the opposition bowlers with his defensive approach, while Pant’s aggression forced Australia to change their attacking tactic.

Rahane’s first authoritative shot was a cracking pull off Josh Hazlewood and there was also a sumptuous off-drive, both for four. Balls at his pads were comfortably whipped through the mid-wicket or square-leg region and he was equally good with his drives and cuts.

Pant fell when Mitchell Starc found the edge of his bat as he went for a slash outside off. Starc’s 250th Test wicket threatened to accelerate India’s end. However, Ravindra Jadeja curbed his natural attacking instinct to put his head down to add valuable runs with his captain.

Drops

Rahane got a life when Steve Smith dropped him on 73 at second slip after the batsmen tried to chop a widish ball from Starc and it flew fast to Smith. Rahane got another reprieve when substitute fielder Travis Head dropped the catch after diving forward from gully, after the batsman had reached his 100.

Steve Smith drops Rahane at second slip. Reuters

Earlier, resuming on 36/1, India started cautiously before losing both overnight batsmen — debutant Shubman Gill and the seasoned Cheteshwar Pujara — in the space of 11 balls. Gill impressed with a fluent 45 and played some fine shots during his 65-ball knock before he edged Cummins for Paine. Pujara made 17, off 70 deliveries, and was dismissed by Cummins with a good ball that angled in before straightening to take the edge of the bat. — TNS, agencies

Scoreboard

AUSTRALIA 1st innings 195

INDIA 1st innings (Overnight 36/1)

M Agarwal lbw b Starc 0

S Gill c Paine b Cummins 45

C Pujara c Paine b Cummins 17

A Rahane not out 104

H Vihari c Smith b Lyon 21

R Pant c Paine b Starc 29

R Jadeja not out 40

Extras: (b 12, lb 6, nb 2, w 1) 21

Total: (5 wickets, 91.3 overs) 277

FOW: 1-0, 2-61, 3-64, 4-116, 5-173

Bowling O M R W

Mitchell Starc 18.3 3 61 2

Pat Cummins 22 7 71 2

Josh Hazlewood 21 6 44 0

Nathan Lyon 18 2 52 1

Cameron Green 12 1 31 0



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