PERTH – India made a poor start to their daunting run chase in the second test losing the key wickets of Lokesh Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara before tea on the fourth day with Australia’s fired-up quicks smelling blood on a menacing pitch on Monday.
Chasing 287 runs at the Perth Stadium after bowling out Australia for 243 in their second innings, India were in a dire position at 15 for two with Murali Vijay six not out and captain Virat Kohli yet to score.
An out-of-form Rahul played on to his stumps off Mitchell Starc on the fourth ball of the innings to be dismissed for a duck and was soon followed by the in-form Pujara, who gloved a sharp short ball from Josh Hazlewood to be caught behind.
Pujara, India’s first test hero in Adelaide, fell for four to dent India’s faint chances after an inspired comeback with the ball earlier in the session.
After a wicketless morning session, India came alive through blistering short-pitched bowling from Mohammed Shami, who made the ball steeple off the grassy wicket to finish with a career-best 6-56.
Australia spectacularly lost four wickets for six runs starting with captain Tim Paine (37) falling to a vicious short ball from Shami, which spat off the pitch hitting the glove and ballooned to slip.
Shami was on a hat-trick when he had Aaron Finch caught behind down the leg-side in a fleeting resumption for the opener.
Finch retired hurt on day three on 25 after being struck on the glove by a searing short ball from Shami but X-Rays cleared him of serious injury to his right index finger.
Shami was denied the hat-trick but soon claimed his fifth wicket with another menacing bouncer that caught Usman Khawaja’s glove to be caught behind for 72.
Khawaja, Australia’s most accomplished batsman, notched his first half-century of the four-test series in his determined 213-ball knock.
Australia’s lead was 250 before Hazlewood (17 not out) and Starc (14) added an invaluable 36 runs for the last wicket.
The pyrotechnics contrasted a sedate morning session dominated by Australia, who grabbed control of a fluctuating match with Khawaja and Paine batting through to lunch.
The strength of Australia’s position is reflected by the fact that India have successfully chased down a fourth innings target of more than 200 runs on only 12 occasions. (Reuters)
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)