Kohli, Rahane make merry
Virat Kohli (169) cracked his highest Test score and forged a 262-run fourth-wicket partnership with Ajinkya Rahane (147) to launch a stunning Indian fightback to end day three at 462 for eight, but five late wickets brought the contest back in balance in the enthralling third Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Kohli cracked his third century of the series, aided by 18 boundaries, after hitting hundreds in both innings of the first Test. Rahane stroked his first century on the Australian soil which came off 171 balls, studded with 21 hits to the fence.
The duo’s stupendous effort forced Australia onto the backfoot despite having the weight of a formidable total (530 all out) to back them up. But once Rahane was dismissed in trying to step up on the run-rate, three wickets, debutant Lokesh Rahul (3), skipper MS Dhoni (11) and Ravinchandran Ashwin (0), perished cheaply to reduce India to 434 for seven and swing the match back in the balance.
Kohli’s dismissal off Mitchell Johnson on what turned out be the last ball of the day dampened the team’s spirits further as India were 68 runs behind with only two wickets in hand in their first innings. Mohammed Shami was unbeaten on nine at stumps. Pacer Ryan Harris took four wickets for 69 while spinner Nathan Lyon chipped in with two. India resumed the day at 108 for one in reply to Australia?s first innings score of 530 all out and were in a spot of bother losing both overnight batsman Cheteshwar Pujara (25) and Murali Vijay (68) within the first hour, to be reduced to 147 for three.
But after steadying the ship with a 77-run partnership before lunch to pull India to 224 for three at the meal break, the Kohli-Rahane duo defied the probing Australian bowling, taking the attack to the opposition.
Both led charmed lives, benefiting from dropped catches each, to pile on the agony for the home team. Kohli, who scored two centuries in the first Test at Adelaide Oval, unleashed a handful of sweetly-timed cover drives early in his innings. He was ably supported by Rahane who began his innings similarly and then matched the more experienced Kohli shot-by-shot.
He benefited from Lyon’s failure to latch onto a simple caught-and-bowled chance and raced to a fluent hundred, passing Kohli in the race to three figures. The 26-year-old then tore into Johnson’s ploy of bouncing him and initiated a stunning assault on the left-arm pacer, dispatching him to the fence each time he bowled short.
Kohli, too, rode his luck. He was dropped by Shane Watson at first slip and had another life on the same score when a mistimed pull-shot, both off a fired-up Johnson, eluded the diving gloves of wicket-keeper Brad Haddin. The proceedings got heated up when Johnson hit Kohli with a follow-through throw while trying to run-out the Indian. Kohli then exchanged words with the pacer and lost his composure to offer two chances, but Australia muffled both.
Earlier, India’s start to the day’s action couldn’t have been worse. Resuming the day at 108 for one, Australia needed only two deliveries from Ryan Harris to get an initial breakthrough, scalping Chesteshwar Pujara on his overnight score of 25. He was caught brilliantly by an acrobatic Brad Haddin who flew himself on the right to catch the ball with his outstretched glove. Vijay holed out to Shaun Marsh off the bowling of Shane Watson.
Australia (first innings): 530 all out
India (first innings)
Murali Vijay c Marsh b Watson 68, Shikhar Dhawan c Smith b Harris 28, Cheteshwar Pujara c Haddin b Harris 25, Virat Kohli c Haddin b Johnson 169, Ajinkya Rahane lbw b Lyon 147, Lokesh Rahul c Hazlewood b Lyon 3, MS Dhoni c Haddin b Harris 11, R Ashwin c & b Harris 0, Mohammed Shami batting 9; Extras (lb 1, w 1) 2; Total (for eight wickets in 126.2 overs) 462; Fall of wickets 1-55 (Dhawan, 14.2 overs), 2-108 (Pujara, 37.2), 3-147 (Vijay, 49.5), 4-409 (Rahane, 107.4), 5-415 (Rahul, 109.6), 6-430 (Dhoni, 116.4), 7-434 (Ashwin, 118.2), 8-462 (Kohli, 126.2); Bowling Mitchell Johnson 29.2-5-133-1, Ryan Harris 25-7-69-4, Josh Hazlewood 25-6-75-0, Shane Watson 16-3-65-1, Nathan Lyon 29-3-108-2, Steven Smith 2-0-11-0
Stat-attack day 3
Virat Kohli’s brilliant 169 off 272 balls is his career-best innings in Tests, his first century in a Test match against Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground
Kohli became the second Indian batsman to post three centuries in a Test series in Australia. Gavaskar, in successive games, had registered a ton each at Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne in the 1977-78 series
Ajinkya Rahane (147 off 171 balls) has recorded a career-best innings in Tests, surpassing the 118 off 158 balls vs New Zealand at Wellington in February
Rahane became the first India’s no. 5 player to hit three fifties in a Test series against Australia in Australia
Rahane enjoys a superb record away from home in Tests, his tally being 970 (ave.48.50) in twelve Tests, including three centuries and six fifties
Brad Haddin became the fourth Oz wicketkeeper and the ninth in Test annals to complete 250 dismissals. He accomplished the feat in 62 Tests, the second fastest behind the 59 Tests taken by Adam Gilchrist
India (462/8) for the first time recorded a total of 450 at MCG, bettering the 445 in December 1985
Sachin Tendulkar (6), Sunil Gavaskar (5), VVS Laxman (4) and Virat Kohli (4) are the four Indian players to score four or more tons against Australia in Australia
Rahane and Kohli were involved in a partnership of 262, India’s highest for any wicket against Australia at MCG, surpassing the 165 for the first wicket between Chetan Chauhan and Sunil Gavaskar in 1980-81. The said partnership is India’s fourth stand of 200-plus for any wicket against Australia in Australia