December 16, 2018 21:43:49
Australia has batted its way into a spot of bother once again in this series against India, despite starting the second innings in Perth with a 43-run advantage.
Some silly dismissals and a freak injury have left the hosts on slightly shaky ground at 4-132, albeit with a lead of 175 after day three.
After a strong first innings of the second Test, Australia’s middle-order issues returned to bite them and hopes of a big lead now rest on the shoulders of Usman Khawaja (41 not out), Tim Paine (8 not out) and the over-achieving tail order.
At a time when the team’s full-strength batting line-up leaves a lot to be desired, the last thing it could afford is an injury to opener Aaron Finch, who was backing up his first-innings half-century nicely.
He had reached 25 with some powerful stroke play when he copped a nasty seamer from Jasprit Bumrah on the finger, forcing him off the field on the stroke of the tea break.
It was soon confirmed Finch had retired hurt and had been taken to hospital for an X-ray on his finger, which was visibly split open, casting doubt on his place in the team for the Boxing Day Test at the very least.
Soon after the tea break, opening partner Marcus Harris departed for 20 after shouldering arms to Bumrah, who knocked off one of the opener’s bails from around the wicket.
Shaun Marsh came and went, bottom-edging Mohammed Shami through to the keeper for just 5, before Ishant Sharma found out Peter Handscomb’s back-foot technique yet again, trapping him plumb LBW for 13.
That brought one of the team’s newest but already most reliable batsmen, Travis Head, to the crease and he looked en route to a third half-century in his eighth Test knock before he wandered mindlessly into an obvious trap set for him by India.
Despite holing out to deep third man while on 58 in the first innings, Head did exactly the same thing in the second — this time after only adding 19 runs.
It came after the first half of the day belonged to Virat Kohli, who converted his overnight 82 to a 25th Test century, and a sixth on Australian soil.
While Ajinkya Rahane (51) could not add anything to his day-two accumulation, Hanuma Vihari (20) joined his captain at the crease for a brief knock, while Kohli continued to showcase his imperious driving and shot placement.
But Kohli would fall for 123, edging Pat Cummins to the diving Peter Handscomb at slip, with Handscomb doing brilliantly to get to the ball, but with some question marks over whether he dug his fingers beneath the ball to take the catch.
There was not enough conclusive evidence on video replay to overturn the soft dismissal from the field of play, but it took nothing away from a gem of an innings from Kohli, who received a standing ovation from the Perth Stadium crowd.
It did, however, expose India’s long tail, and despite some typically lusty hitting from Rishabh Pant (36 off 50), the tourists’ lower order quickly wilted thanks to the spin of Nathan Lyon.
Lyon collected figures of 5-67, equalling Muttiah Muralidaran’s record of seven five-wicket hauls against India.
December 16, 2018 21:09:23