MELBOURNE: India batsmen Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane struck inspired centuries during a record fourth-wicket partnership at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday to help India claw their way back into the third Test against Australia on day three.
The pair united at 147-3 in the morning and were finally separated at 409-4 after tea, having creamed 262 runs off Australia’s hapless bowlers before spinner Nathan Lyon had Rahane trapped lbw for 147.
Kohli pushed on to 169 before he was caught behind, his third century of the series driving India to 462-8 at stumps, only 68 behind Australia’s first innings 530.
Mohammed Shami was left on nine not out and though India will certainly concede a first innings deficit, Kohli and Rahane’s gallant stand was another defiant response from a team that has fought hard all series only to trail 2-0.
Australia hit back late in the session after Rahane fell, with lion-hearted paceman Ryan Harris capturing two wickets to finish the day with a hard-earned 4-69 after belting a career-high 74 with the bat on day two.
“It was obviously tough through the middle there,” the 35-year-old Harris said in an interview. “But to finish the day off like that is pretty good.
“I think as a group we bowled pretty well. It was just that we didn’t take the opportunities when they came and the two guys out there put on that big partnership and batted pretty well.”
Haddin notched his 250th dismissal with a brilliant, lunging catch to remove Cheteshwar Pujara on the second ball of the day and the 37-year-old finished the day with another terrific dive to remove Kohli.
Australia, however, rued two dropped catches after lunch that could have ended Kohli and Rahane’s stand much earlier.
Lyon spilled the simplest of catches off his own bowling to reprieve Rahane on 70, while Shane Watson grounded a sharp chance at first slip to grant Kohli a life before tea.
The pair duly punished them, lashing 39 boundaries between them on a warm, sunny day.
Main strike bowler Mitchell Johnson came in for special punishment, leaching 27 runs in two overs after tea, his short-pitched assault arrogantly dismissed.
Kohli pulled Johnson to the fence three times in one over to have the Indian fans roaring in the crowd of 42,000.
Johnson would ultimately capture his wicket but the ICC Cricketer of the Year ended the day with ugly figures of 1-133.
Rahane was out lbw trying to sweep Lyon, though replays suggested the middle order batsman may have been unlucky.
Lokesh Rahul had a forgettable three on debut, dropped on his seventh delivery by substitute fielder Peter Siddle after an unsightly slog, then caught top-edging the next ball from Lyon at backward square leg after another appalling stroke.
Dhoni made a streaky 11 before edging Harris to Haddin, and the bulky paceman did well to catch Ashwin off his own bowling soon after.
After wins in Adelaide and Brisbane, Australia need only a draw in Melbourne to seal the four-match series.
AUSTRALIA (1st Innings) 530 (S.P.D. Smith 192, R.J. Harris 74, C.L.J. Rogers 57, B.J. Haddin 55, S.R. Watson 52; Mohammed Shami 4-138, U.T. Yadav 3-130, R. Ashwin 3-134).
INDIA (1st Innings, overnight 108-1): M. Vijay c Marsh b Watson 68 S. Dhawan c Smith b Harris 28 C.A. Pujara c Haddin b Harris 25 V. Kohli c Haddin b Johnson 169 A.M. Rahane lbw b Lyon 147 K.L. Rahul c Hazlewood b Lyon 3 M.S. Dhoni c Haddin b Harris 11 R. Ashwin c and b Harris 0 Mohammed Shami not out 9
EXTRAS (LB-1, W-1) 2
TOTAL (for eight wkts, 126.2 overs) 462
FALL OF WKTS: 1-55, 2-108, 3-147, 4-409, 5-415, 6-430, 7-434, 8-462.
BOWLING (to-date): Johnson 29.2-5-133-1; Harris 25-7-69-4 (1w); Hazlewood 25-6-75-0; Watson 16-3-65-1; Lyon 29-3-108-2; Smith 2-0-11-0.
Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2014