Sport Cricket Lifeless pitch means a bigger test for Australia

Lifeless pitch means a bigger test for Australia

Indian skipper Virat Kohli (L) was given a life by Tim Paine late on the final day. Photo: Getty
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India 2-215 Overs: 89 STUMPS

V Kohli 47  C Pujara 68

Australia’s bowlers begin the second day of the Third Test at the MCG with a lot of hot work ahead and Virat Kohli and a lifeless pitch standing in the way.

With a top temperature of 36 degrees predicted for Melbourne on Thursday, the Australians face a tough battle to rein in the scoring with the Indians starting at 2-215 – the skipper resuming on 47 and Cheteshwar Pujara on 68.

Kohli will likely to take the attack the Australians after looking dangerous early in his innings on Wednesday and later surviving a dropped Tim Paine catch three overs before stumps.

Pujara offers the perfect foil to Kohli with his score so far coming off 200 balls – a measure of his patience and form so far this series.

Paine’s inability to reach Kohli’s tough chance off Mitchell Starc late in the day may come back to haunt him, although it is the waking nightmare of losing the toss and being forced to bowl on the dead pitch that may have already sunk Australian hopes.

“I thought it would offer a little bit more than probably what it did in the first couple of hours,” Australian batsman Travis Head told AAP after the day’s play.

“There was still a little bit there … the quicks were able to extract some pace out of it in parts, and then other parts it didn’t react the way we thought it would.

“We’ll have to wait and see how it pans out, I guess. As the next four days continue, hopefully the game moves. But yeah, today was tough work.”

Expect to see even more erratic field placings than the ones Australia served up on day one, with Head indicating that Australia will mix it up again in a bid to make something … anything, happen.

“I think for that wicket obviously … we didn’t get the ball to swing and it didn’t assist off the wicket as much as in Perth and Adelaide, so you’ve got to become a little more proactive on how you’re going to get your wickets,” Head said.

“We’ve seen that a little bit today with some funkier fields, just trying to tempt the batter into something or trying to change the momentum of the game.”

The fiery new-ball spell from Mitchell Starc (0-32) just before stumps offered some hope that Australia can make headway, while Pat Cummins (2-40) fine pace efforts earlier in the day showed that hard work eventually pays off.

Curator Matt Page had spruiked the drop-in pitch for this Test as better than last year’s tame Ashes deck – which resulted in a draw – but so far it’s hard to see much improvement.

Offspinner Nathan Lyon (0-59) was called into the Australian attack after only seven overs on Wednesday, but he was also ineffective, particular as new Indian bat Mayank Argarwal pushed on towards 76 – the highest score by an Indian on debut in Australia.

Another ‘poor’ pitch rating from the ICC would leave the MCG at risk of being stripped of the Boxing Day Test under new guidelines that came into effect after last year’s Ashes Test.

The challenge facing MCG staff to improve the deck was underscored by the surprise ‘average’ rating bestowed upon the Perth Stadium pitch for the second Test.

Players past and present raved about the pace and bounce on offer from the Perth drop-in wicket that produced a thrilling contest full of momentum swings.

With a day one crowd of 73,576 marking a record single day’s attendance for Australia versus India Tests in Australia there’s no doubt the fixture has the nation’s attention.

The risk now is that the fans will drift off to their own backyard decks, which may yet offer more fizz and entertainment as the next four days unfold.

-with AAP