Australia opener Joe Burns’ Test career is hanging by a thread after another failure at the top of the order at the MCG, with Australia looking to erase a 131 run first innings deficit to India.
Burns was out for just four, caught behind off Umesh Yadav, in the second innings after a 10-ball duck in the first dig.
To compound his problems, Burns wasted one of Australia’s reviews in the process, with a hotspot on the bat confirming the umpire’s on-field decision.
Minutes earlier, Burns was lucky to survive when he was hit on the toe by a Jasprit Bumrah yorker.
The on-field decision was not out and while the ball was seen to be clipping leg stump on review it was not enough to overturn the call.
Burns made an unbeaten 51 in Australia’s successful run chase in the first Test in Adelaide but has managed just 17 runs in his other seven innings against the tourists for Australia and Australia A this summer.
The dismal record includes three ducks and comes after Burns averaged 11.4 with the bat in three Sheffield Shield matches for Queensland this season.
David Warner is likely to overcome a groin injury in time to return for the third Test, with Burns now appearing most likely to make way for the explosive left-hander.
It was not all good news for India, with Yadav hobbling off the MCG during his fourth over.
Debutant Mohammed Siraj bowled the final three balls of the Yadav over as the 33-year-old left the field with a lower-leg injury.
Australia was battling to get back on top before Marnus Labuschagne was caught by Rahane off Ravichandran Ashwin for 28 – leaving the home side 2-42 and still trailing by 89.
At tea the home side was 2-65, with Matthew Wade on 27 and Steve Smith six.
Earlier Australia’s Nathan Lyon took 3-72 in cleaning up the Indian tail for a total of 326, with Marnus Labuschagne running out Indian skipper Ajinkya Rahane for 112.
The dismissal came after allrounder Ravindra Jadeja struggled while on 49 and sought to take a quick single. Jadeja was eventually caught out for 57.
Rahane’s 223 ball innings in 359 minutes set his team up to take command of the Test.
India legend Sunil Gavaskar says Rahane’s gritty century will go down as one of the most important innings in the nation’s cricket history.
It came under huge pressure after the 32-year-old was called up to stand in as captain after Virat Kohli returned home to be with his partner for the birth of their child.
“I believe that this hundred is going to be one of the most important hundreds in the history of Indian cricket,” Gavaskar told the Seven Network before play resumed on day three.
“Important because it’s showing character, sending a message to the opposition that after being dismissed for 36 in the previous game, to come back in this manner, this Indian team is not going to just lie down and be walked all over.
“That is the message and that’s why I think this is going to be one of the most important hundreds in the history of Indian cricket.”
The Boxing Day Test pitch was lauded as one of the best in years after day one, but Australian quick Mitchell Starc hs claimed the deck is now reverting to type.
Eleven wickets tumbled on the opening day of the match, with Australia rolled for 195 after Tim Paine had no hesitation in batting first after winning the toss.
With Rahane resuming at 104 not out and Jadeja at 40, India started the day at 5-277.
Starc believes Australia’s batsmen will need to cash in their second innings if they are any chance to avoid heading into the third Test with the series tied at one-all.
“Once the ball got a bit softer, the wicket is pretty placid,” Starc said. “By the end of (Sunday) there’s not too many demons in it anymore.
“That’s a typical Melbourne (pitch), it flattens out, even with that bit of extra grass to what we’re normally used to here. It’s become a pretty flat wicket.
“It’s important for us now when we get the chance to bat again is to bat really big and bat us into the game again.”
The MCG pitch has received serious criticism in recent times for producing run-feasts, with the dull Boxing Day Test Ashes draw in 2017 a low-point.
Indian opener Shubman Gill, who scored 45 on debut, is adamant the pitch will deteriorate and bring spinners Ravi Ashwin and Jadeja back into the game.
“As the time goes on, there’s going to be more cracks and the wicket is going to be more challenging for the batsmen,” he said.
“It’s still important that we capitalise on this lead that we have and then get them all-out as quick as possible.”