NO CHOKE

AUSSIES NEED A MIR­A­CLE

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - RUS­SELL GOULD

THE ner­vous Aus­tralian bat­ting line-up is star­ing down the bar­rel of a fourth-in­nings res­cue mis­sion af­ter a last gasp ef­fort from spin­ner Nathan Lyon nudged the first Test door open for his team.

Odds for the home side pulling off a re­mark­able win were slashed by half as Lyon fi­nally dis­missed In­dian cap­tain Vi­rat Kohli in the shad­ows of stumps, af­ter 20 overs of try­ing.

In­dia hold the whip hand and the tourists’ mid­dle order, in­clud­ing first in­nings road­block Cheteswhar Pu­jara, stand be­tween the Aussies and a get­table fourth in­nings to­tal. The lead was 166 at stumps, with six wick­ets in hand.

Kohli’s sin­gle-minded de­ter­mi­na­tion to do what none of the eight pre­vi­ous In­dian cap­tains be­fore him could, and win a se­ries in Aus­tralia, pushed him through an en­thralling bat­tle with Aussie pace ace Josh Ha­zle­wood. Runs were hard to come by and then Lyon struck as part of a valiant Aussie bowl­ing ef­fort try­ing des­per­ately to stay in the game.

Cu­ri­ously, Aussie cap­tain Tim Paine kept at­tack­ing weapon Mitch Starc cool for more than two hours af­ter his early spells, and only called on him for two more overs in the fi­nal ses­sion. In­stead, Lyon probed away for 18 overs straight, and twice had Pu­jara given out only to lose the toss when the In­dian re­ferred them. Af­ter a break he got Kohli and Aussie spir­its lifted.

“I felt like I was go­ing to get him at bat pad or bowled through the gate. It was great to get some re­ward out of that,” Lyon, who has dis­missed Kohli five times, more than any other bowler, told Fox Cricket. “It was one of those days when I felt I bowled re­ally well and could have come away with six or seven wick­ets.”

Lyon’s ef­fort, and that of Ha­zle­wood and Cum­mins, was a les­son in how to fight for the Aus­tralian bat­ters who have to el­e­vate their ef­fort when their turn comes some­time on what looms as sweaty-palms Sun­day.

Lo­cal lad Travis Head de­clared any tar­get score was “get­table” on the new Ade­laide Oval wicket and de­spite star­ing down the bar­rel of a nerve-jan­gling run chance re­cent his­tory sug­gests fourth and fifth day are eas­ier now than ever.

In Sh­effield Shield cricket at least the past two teams bat­ting last in Ade­laide went well be­yond 300, with­out be­ing bowled out.

But Test cricket is on an­other level and it would seem this new-look Aussie top order, which went in fits and starts the first time around, would have to muster some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary to avoid hand­ing In­dia a 1-0 se­ries lead.

No team has chased down more than 239 bat­ting last to win a Test in Ade­laide since the mid­dle of last cen­tury, and the only suc­cess­ful chase of more than 300 came in 1902.

Na­tional coach Justin Langer has been at pains to point out his rookie bats­men were “fight­ing their back­sides off” to be­come the Test play­ers he needs them to be.

Langer has in­stilled a pos­i­tive mind­set in the dress­ing room too, hop­ing to en­sure fail­ures with the bat aren’t the con­fi­dence-sap­ping events they could be­come, such is their fre­quency.

Af­ter first dig fail­ures, opener Aaron Finch and mid­dle-order lynch pin Shaun Marsh might be given the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to be­come na­tional he­roes and get their team to the line.

Paine and com­pany have shown their steel for the fight as re­cently as Oc­to­ber too.

In the United Arab Emi­rates Us­man Khawaja bat­ted for 522 min­utes in the desert heat as he, and skip­per Paine, pulled their team out of the fire as Aus­tralia sur­vived nearly 140 overs to earn a fa­mous draw.

They will need all that met­tle and more to equal the se­cond-up ef­fort of the In­di­ans who learned their les­sons from day one and im­plored a “wait first, then hit” men­tal­ity.

Open­ers KL Rahul and Mu­rali Vi­jay scored just eight runs from the first 50 balls of the se­cond in­nings, start­ing af­ter lunch and a long rain de­lay.

None of those runs came off Ha­zle­wood, who bowled 24 straight dot balls to start, and four of the runs were leg byes.

The run rate hardly lifted when the open­ers left, stuck on just over 2.5 an over through 60 bowled dur­ing a rain-in­ter­rupted day. And ev­ery In­dian run with­out a wicket as the fi­nal ses­sion went on was a small dag­ger to Aus­tralia’s chances, but the home team ex­ited as any­thing but a lost cause.

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