Coming out to bat after lunch, India were in a comfortable position at 119/2. Yes, they did lose Murali Vijay moments before the interval but a solid-looking Cheteshwar Pujara gave enough signs of the session to follow. And, the no.3 didn’t disappoint.
India skipper Virat Kohli, shaken by the bouncer first up, steadied the innings along with Pujara and pushed the visitors into driving seat. They countered the seamers well but were very watchful against Nathan Lyon, who was in between a probing spell.
Lyon’s last laugh
The offie was operating around a probing zone. He was very easy to the eye and pitched just around the off-stump corridor. Not only did that line take the scoring opportunities on the off-side out of the picture but also allowed him to attack with fielders in catching positions.
A short-leg, leg-slip and Lyon was operating to a plan. The Indian batsmen — known to be quality players of spin bowling — were not sure how to tackle the drift, turn and bounce on offer. It was like a perfect Wankhede setting with a gentle breeze, some rough patches outside off and enough purchase to keep the bowler interested.
Though the mode of Pujara’s dismissal was not that encouraging, but it was a wicket, a crucial wicket. Batting at 73, the solid no.3 was looking set for a big daddy hundred before a delivery rolled back on to his stumps.
Johnson impresses, in patches
Yes, he was bending his back, yes the speed was in the mid 140s but more importantly it wasn’t Varun Aaron-like raw pace. It was well planned and operated spell of fast bowling where he posed questions on a not-so-assisting strip.
The 59th over, which he bowled to Ajinkya Rahane, was the highlight of the session. He pushed one across the right-hander, who played and miss. Followed it up with a back-of-a-length delivery holding its line and finished it off with a rising delivery which did shake Rahane a bit.
Lesson learnt? Unlike the Indian bowlers, Australia seamers have adapted to the conditions and are not doing anything spectacular.
Captain steers the ship
Kohli has shifted gears after Pujara’s wicket. He’s looking to spend time in the middle and not playing too many, and unwanted, strokes. The intensity of stealing quick singles has been very encouraging and the skipper, two short of fifty, is definitely eyeing a hundred on the ground where he scored his maiden Test ton.
If India have to bat big, it is important that the skipper stays there throughout the day.