Australian batsmen showed commendable application to claim the upper-hand against India with a vital 48-run first innings lead after reaching 237 for six on an engaging second day of the second cricket Test.
Young opener Matt Renshaw (60) and experienced Shaun Marsh (66) battled hard against the Indian spinners. Their fighting half-centuries consolidated Australia’s position in the match but Virat Kohli’s captaincy left a lot to be desired.
On a pitch aiding spinners, left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja (3/49), the home team’s top wicket-taker, got to bowl only 17 overs compared to Ravichandran Ashwin (1/75 in 41 overs)
While Ashwin bowled a tight line and beat the bat on occasions, it was Jadeja, who looked like the most lethal among Indian bowlers. To their credit, the Australians gave a better account of themselves on a two-paced pitch.
Jadeja was using the rough created on both sides of the stumps more effectively but Kohli’s decision was baffling as he even gave Karun Nair an over in the end.
It was perhaps one of the most intense and intriguing days of Test cricket in the current home season where the batting team managed a total of 197 runs off 90 overs in a single day’s play.
A first innings lead of even 100 runs would be as good as a 175-run lead on this track, which would make it even more difficult for the Indian batsmen, already under pressure after three poor innings of under 200 runs.
Unlike India, Australia had some good partnerships including a 52-run opening stand between David Warner (33) and Renshaw after which the former was bowled by a classical off-break from Ashwin.
Skipper Steve Smith (8), for a change, was dismissed cheaply with Wriddhiman Saha taking a fantastic catch off Jadeja’s bowling.
But the partnership that turned out to be crucial was the one between Renshaw and Marsh senior which yielded 52 runs.
The duo came together at 82 for 2 and they consumed more than 25 overs. It was the manner in which they handled Umesh Yadav’s reverse swing and the two spinners which made it difficult for the home team.
Renshaw, in particular, was a revelation during his 196-ball stay. He showed solid defensive technique and hit five fours and a six off Jadeja before being stumped.
Marsh, however, got an able ally in Matthew Wade (25 batting). The duo added 57 runs for the sixth wicket during which they got past India’s first innings total.
One cannot take anything away from the two Indian pacers Ishant Sharma (1/39 in 23 overs) and Yadav (1/57 in 24 overs), who bowled their hearts out with little success.
Umesh in particular bowled an engaging spell during the first session where his reverse swing kept both Renshaw and Smith on tenterhooks.
Umesh finally was rewarded at the fag end of the day when Marsh clipped one to Karun at short mid-wicket having faced 197 balls hitting four boundaries.
The best part about Australian batting today was a Queenslander (Renshaw) and a Western Australian (Marsh) blunting the Indian spin twins having grown up on a staple diet of fast bowling in their region.
They were ready to wait for the loose deliveries as in the 106 overs so far, the Australian batsmen have hit only 18 boundaries and a six.
They ran singles well and after a point in time, one could feel that Ashwin was overbowled. He looked jaded now into his 11th straight Test match in the home season.
Jadeja, on the otherhand, wasn’t given an extended spell in any of the sessions despite looking more potent compared to Ashwin.
At the end of the second session, Jadeja’s figures were 3 for 32 runs in 13 overs, a bowling performance which helped India to bounce back into the game.
The other wicket taker was Ishant Sharma who dismissed Mitchell Marsh for a duck at the stroke of tea.
Australia could muster 76 runs while losing three wickets in 35 overs in the session. Shaun Marsh was batting on 38 from 127 balls at the break.
The Indians toiled hard for more than 20 overs in the second session without any success with young opener Matt Renshaw and Shaun Marsh showing tremendous application on a turning track for a 50-plus partnership.
The Australian duo’s doggedness looked like taking away the momentum from the fired-up Indians who showed a lot of intent today and the visitors were inching towards the home side first innings total of 189.
Renshaw departed in the 67th over and that changed the scenario as Australia lost three wickets in 13.3 overs for the addition of just 29 runs.
Peter Handscomb (16) and Mitchell Marsh (0) were out in the space of 3.2 overs. Renshaw’s 60 came from 196 balls and he hit five fours and a six.
Australia now trail by 26 runs with five first innings wickets in hand on a difficult Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch where run-making has been extremely hard.
Renshaw, who dropped anchor to build a solid innings, took his time to score runs. He reached to his third half century when he clipped Ravichandran Ashwin through mid-wicket for a couple of runs.
Renshaw’s fifty came in 240 minutes of 183 balls with five boundaries to his name. His fifth boundary came after facing 71 balls.
Jadeja had the last laugh as he forced Renshaw, who had belted the same bowler over his head for a magnificent six, to come outside the crease to play the ball. The batsman missed it completely and Wriddhiman Saha dismantled the bails before the opener could get in.
Jadeja then removed Peter Handscomb, after the batsman scored 16 runs of 30 balls with two boundaries. He came down the track and tried to flick it but failed to get contact as the ball went straight towards Ashwin at mid-wicket.
Ashwin dived towards his right and got his hand to it, the ball fumbled out but luckily it again hit his arm and bounced again which helped him gather it in the second chance.
Australia, who were 40 for two overnight, could only add 47 runs from 29 overs while losing two important wickets.
India, who were shot out for a paltry 189 in the first innings, showed a lot of intent and they were fired up for most part of the morning session.
The session belonged to India as they put shackles around the Australian batsmen by not allowing them to score freely.
The crucial session also saw a lot of theatrics and verbal sparrings between the players of the two sides.
Ishant and Smith were involved in some theatrics with the India pacer making faces on quite a few occasions to the visiting captain after his shout for an LBW was turned down by the umpire. Kohli was also seen enjoying the moment as he wore a smile from behind to what Ishant was doing.
Smith looked like amused initially but later retorted in his own way. The Australian captain also survived a close LBW decision. India asked for a DRS referral but to no avail.
The Australian captain was not to play a long innings today as he succumbed to the intense Indian pressure in the 42nd over as his defensive shot off Jadeja hit the inside edge of his bat and the pad before wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha took a fine diving catch.