IN­DIA FIGHT BACK

Hosts re­ply strongly after Smith’s epic knock

New Straits Times - - Sport -

OPENER Lokesh Rahul struck a flu­ent half­cen­tury to lead a strong In­dian re­ply after Aus­tralia skip­per Steve Smith’s marathon knock helped the vis­i­tors post a for­mi­da­ble 451 in the third Test yes­ter­day.

The hosts were 120 for one at stumps in Ranchi, with Mu­rali Vi­jay (42) and Chetesh­war Pu­jara (10) bat­ting at the break. In­dia still trail the vis­i­tors by 331 in their first in­nings.

Ear­lier, Smith’s un­beaten 178 was the bedrock of the tourists’ in­nings which also fea­tured a maiden Test cen­tury by all­rounder Glenn Maxwell.

In re­ply, Rahul (67) showed re­solve against a prob­ing Aus­tralian pace at­tack be­fore fall­ing to Pat Cum­mins on a sharp ris­ing de­liv­ery that got the bats­man’s gloves for an easy catch to the wick­et­keeper.

Rahul, who hit nine fours in his 102-ball stay, reg­is­tered his fourth fifty of the se­ries to put on 91 runs with open­ing part­ner Vi­jay.

After Rahul’s de­par­ture, Vi­jay took con­trol with Pu­jara for com­pany as the duo played out the rest of the day with some as­sured stroke-mak­ing.

Josh Ha­zle­wood and Cum­mins, who is mak­ing a re­turn after play­ing just one Test for Aus­tralia, back in 2011, worked up good pace on what still seems a de­cent bat­ting wicket.

Ear­lier, with Aus­tralia re­sum­ing the day on 299-4, Smith and Maxwell put on a 191-run part­ner­ship to help the tourists post the big­gest in­nings to­tal so far in the four-match se­ries.

Left-arm spin­ner Ravindra Jadeja claimed his eighth fivewicket haul in his 29th match to re­turn with fig­ures of 5-124.

Jadeja ran out last man Ha­zle­wood (0) to deny Smith the chance of post­ing the sec­ond dou­ble cen­tury in the 53rd match of his ca­reer.

Smith though reg­is­tered the high­est score by an Aus­tralian cap­tain on In­dian soil after sur­pass­ing Michael Clarke’s 130 in Chennai in the 2012-13 se­ries.

But it was the 28-year-old Maxwell who set the tone for Aus­tralia’s con­tin­ued dom­i­nance with his first Test ton in just his fourth game since mak­ing his de­but in 2013.

In­dia’s plight was deep­ened by the ab­sence of skip­per Vi­rat Kohli who has been off the field since Thurs­day af­ter­noon with an in­jured shoul­der.

While vice-cap­tain Ajinkya Ra­hane stood in for Kohli but the star bats­man is ex­pected to don the pads and bat in what re­mains a cru­cial Test for the hosts.

The se­ries be­tween the world’s top two sides is tan­ta­lis­ingly poised at 1-1 with In­dia need­ing at least a draw to have any chance of win­ning back the BorderGavaskar Tro­phy.

AFP PIC

In­dia’s Lokesh Rahul (right) plays a shot past Aus­tralian wick­et­keeper Matthew Wade on the sec­ond day of the third Test in Ranchi yes­ter­day.

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