A fighting 114-run eighth wicket partnership between Axar Patel (74) and R. Ashwin (37) put India back in the game as the hosts scored 262 in their first innings, just one run short of Australia who posted 61 for one in their second essay on the day two of the Delhi test at the Arun Jaitley Stadium here on Saturday.
At stumps, Travis Head (39) and Marnus Labuschagne (16) were at the crease for the visitors after India got an early break through when Jadeja had Opener Usman Khawaja (6) caught by S. Iyer
Axar Patel and Ashwin batted confidently on the track on which the top Indian batting order struggled and these two salvaged the innings and in the process denied the Australian any advantage of a big lead.
The two came together when the Indian Innings was tottering at 139 for 7 in 50.5 overs and the Aussies looked set for a commanding lead but Axar slammed 74 off 115 balls and Ashwin contributed 37 off 71 balls off the 177 –balls .
This was Axar’s second consecutive half century which again frustrated the Australian bowlers and took away some sheen off Nathan Lyon’s commendable effort who claimed 5 wickets for 60 runs, four of which came in the morning session.
Earlier resuming at their overnight score of 21 for no loss, India ran into trouble against Australian spinner Natan Lyon.
KL Rahul’s(17) bad patch continued. After surviving a couple of strong appeals,he was trapped leg-before by Lyon. while Cheteshwar Pujara playing his 100th test had a disastrous outing .
Pujara (0) walked in to bat amid such excitement danced down the pitch to flick off Lyon. But he missed it and was trapped lbw.
Rohit Sharma (32) looked in form and capable of dealing with Lyon as he was playing his shots sensibly. However, Lyon clean bowled him with his straight one as he tried to play across. And at lunch India was 88/4 Virat Kohli (44) and Ravindra Jadeja (26) steadied the innings in the post-lunch session by adding 59 runs for the fifth wicket.
While Kohli batted with aplomb rotated the strike well, Jadeja was good in defence and belted Murphy and Lyon for boundaries.
Murphy had the last laugh as he trapped Jadeja plumb in front with an off-break delivery
Kohli then became and left-arm spinner Matt Kuhnemann’s maiden Test wicket when he was trapped in front of middle-stump. With his bat and pad so close to meeting the ball at the same time, TV umpire Richard Illingworth opined ball hit pad first and retained the on-field call as ball tracking showed umpire’s call, resulting in Kohli falling six runs short of his fifty.
Axar and Ashwin displayed defiance and aggressiveness which was missing in the top order batters.They consistently counter-attacked the bowlers especially Todd Murphy (2/53 in 18 overs) and Matt Kuhnemann (2/72 in 21.3 overs), to score runs.
Axar got his third fifty — and a second consecutive one in the series — with a six over cow corner off Kuhnemann and another over extra cover off Murphy. He also hit a six off Lyon, but his standout shot was a back-foot punch through the covers off Pat Cummins.
Ashwin too did not let go of the chances as the visitors lost the initiative after dominating the better part of the first one-and-a-half sessions on Saturday.
However, Kuhnemann dismissed the duo in quick succession, to deny the hosts a physiological advantage of gaining the first innings lead..
With 13 overs left in the day, Australia opened their second innings with T Head and Usman Khawaja.
Head started attacking from the word go pulling and driving off Mohammed Shami for boundaries, and got a thick outer edge off Ravichandran Ashwin for his third four in five overs.
After being hit over deep mid-wicket by Khawaja, Jadeja struck on the very next ball, as the left-handed opener hit straight to a sharp short leg moving to his left.
Head then drove Jadeja for a boundary and then danced down the pitch to hit Ashwin over long-on for six, before stumps were drawn.