Sport Cricket Second Test: Kohli shows his class by leading India’s gutsy fight-back

Second Test: Kohli shows his class by leading India’s gutsy fight-back

India Australia second test perth
Australia celebrates as a disappointed Murali Vijay leaves the field for a duck. Photo: AAP
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India’s talent and experience shone through the course of an absorbing second afternoon in Perth, with Virat Kohli and deputy Ajinkya Rahane building an undefeated stand of 90 and taking India to 3/172 by the close, 154 runs behind Australia’s first innings tally of 326.

Within half an hour of the tea break, the visitors lost Chetehwar Pujara on 24, tangled up and caught down the leg side from the bowling of Mitchell Starc, giving the hosts the opening they craved after he and Kohli shut down an earlier assault that had left them 2/8 in a hurry.

But Rahane (53 not out) played his shots from get-go, striking six fours and one six over third man. It allowed Kohli to move into a state of total calm on the way to stumps, blunting both pace and spin with equal ease.

The world’s top-ranked batsman has faced 181 balls for his 82, along the way raising his bat against Australia for the first time since January 2015.

Kohli’s control was apparent from the outset, striking four boundaries within 10 balls of coming to the crease. Arriving as he did after Josh Hazlewood knocked over KL Rahul (2) with picture-perfect outswinging yorker and Starc had castled Murali Vijay (0) with an equally potential in-ducker, a long occupation from the captain was integral.

Rahane’s assertiveness allowed for Kohli’s relative caution, the number five starting the final half hour with back-to-back boundaries, a gorgeous straight drive then a powerful cut. It was reminiscent of the skipper’s initial flurry, which included two crisp flicks and a picture-perfect on-drive from the bowling of Hazlewood at a time when he and Starc were bringing the heat; in their first 10 overs, the Aussie new-ball pair had an average speed of 145km/h.

Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon combined to put the brakes on Kohli, their first 16 overs before the tea break giving up just 22 runs. Only once, in 2016, has the Indian master has made it to three figures with a strike-rate slower than 50, which he is currently on track for.

But that won’t bother him at all given the expectations of carnage on a wicket that was so volatile the afternoon before. By stumps on Saturday, the cracks were no longer an influence.

“Everyone pretends to be an expert on wickets but nobody really knows,” Australian number-three Usman Khawaja said after play of the surface.

“It looked to have some patches that looked to be doing a little bit. They could have nicked a couple more and it would have been a very different day. All the bowlers bowled well in patches and then not so well in others.”

After starting the day on 277-6, Australia was dismissed for 326 late in the morning session after Tim Paine (38) and Pat Cummins (19) put on a more-than-useful 58-run stand for the seventh wicket. Finishing off the tail after that partnership was broken, Ishant Sharma finished with deservedly impressive figures of 4/41 and is sitting on a hat-trick when he resumes in Australia’s second innings.

“If we can get a couple of wickets early and break this partnership right now it is not an easy wicket to start off on,” Khawaja added when looking ahead to Sunday.

“As the team batting first we are hoping the wicket deteriorates but we have got to start off well tomorrow then we’ll have our chance but we are going to have to be quite disciplined.”

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