Sport Cricket Australian openers survive late onslaught as run chase begins

Australian openers survive late onslaught as run chase begins

Marcus Harris
Australian opener Marcus Harris under fire late on day two at he MCG Photos: Getty
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India 7-443 (dec), Australia 0-8

Finch 5* Harris 3*

Australia will begin day three of the third Test in Melbourne at 0-8 after openers Aaron Finch (5 not out) and Marcus Harris (3 not out) survived an awkward six-over spurt from India’s fast bowlers at the end of the day’s play.

India declared its first innings at 7-443 late on day two.

When Ravindra Jadeja (4) was caught behind off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood, captain Virat Kohli called his batsmen in.

The Australians sent down an exhausting 169.4 overs over five-and-a-half sessions as India built a formidable first-innings total.

Australia was its own worst enemy at times in the field as fatigue and a lack of concentration took their toll.

Off-spinner Nathan Lyon finally had some luck, getting one to keep low to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane (34) LBW as India lost its fifth wicket after tea at the MCG.

It was a just reward for the tireless off-spinner, who had sent down 40 overs without a wicket.

Moments earlier, Lyon had two catches botched in consecutive balls.

Substitute Peter Siddle (on for Pat Cummins) grassed a simple catch at square leg from Rohit Sharma, who then managed to narrowly avoid clipping the ball straight to Travis Head at short leg.

Later, Cummins added to Lyon’s misery by dropping a simple chance at deep mid-on to make it three dropped catches in the session.

Earlier, India lost two wickets after lunch as the Australian bowlers finally had some reward for their toil in tough conditions.

Cheteshwar Pujara (106) scored his second century of the series and set the platform for a large first-innings total.

Pujara, who was the player of the match in the first Test at Adelaide with scores of 123 and 71, notched up his 17th Test century from 280 deliveries.

Pujara was finally dismissed for 106 when a Cummins delivery kept low and rattled his stumps.

Kohli brought up his 50 early in the day and looked set for a huge score.

Kohli had a touch of luck on 56, edging a Josh Hazlewood delivery through a gap in the slips as the Australian bowler looked on in exasperation.

The Indian captain lost concentration on 84, flashing at a Mitchell Starc delivery wide of off stump and being caught by Finch on the third man boundary.

The Australian bowlers went wicketless in the first session as they watched as any advantage that may have been extracted from the new ball, which was taken late on day one, evaporated in the morning heat.

The MCG wicket is such a road it may have had a white line painted down the middle and a set of traffic lights set up at the crease.

Day two offered little hint of a change in playing conditions that might dramatically alter the course of the Test match.

There is the prospect of the ball shooting through low to embarrass batsmen with unplayable deliveries, hardly the key ingredient for a fair contest between bat and ball.

With the Sydney Test coming just four days after the finish of this one, it promises to be a real challenge for the fast bowlers to back up in what could be the series decider.

Despite a change in curator and the promise of a better deck, here we are again.

Cricket fans have a right to feel dudded, particularly as this was a re-run of last year’s boredom bonanza during The Ashes, after which the MCG was put on notice that the playing conditions were not up to standard.

The grand old lady of Australian sport owes its many admirers so much more than it is offering right now.