Delhi Test: Australia takes 62-run lead on Day 2 after Lyons fifer

Delhi Test: Australia takes 62-run lead on Day 2 after Lyon's fifer

Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin added another significant chapter to India’s lower-order fightbacks as their priceless 114-run eighth-wicket partnership put the host on an even keel against Australia on an engrossing second day of the second Test in Delhi on Saturday (February 18).

Thanks to Axar’s invaluable 74 off 115 balls and Ashwins 37 off 71 balls, India, which was in a complete mess at 139/7, recovered well to end its first innings at 262 in 83.3 overs, just one run behind Australia’s 263.

At stumps, Australia was 61/1 in its second innings, taking a handy 62-run lead.

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Axar-Ashwin partnership

Had the two all-rounders not bailed the host out, Australia would have been far happier than it actually was at stumps on Saturday.

Travis Head (39 batting), opening for a concussed David Warner, and Marnus Labuschagne (16 batting) attacked the Indian spinners, knowing that defending wasn’t an option. They picked up a handful of boundaries in the process.

Axar Patel R Ashwin India vs Australia 2nd Test Delhi
India’s Axar Patel (left) raises his bat after scoring a half century against Australia on the second day of the second Test in Delhi on Saturday (February 18). Patel and Ashwin had a crucial 114-run partnership for the eighth wicket. Photo: BCCI

As has been the script over the past few years, batter No. 6 (Ravindra Jadeja), No. 8 (Ashwin) and No. 9 (Axar) were at the forefront of the recovery act after specialist batters were caught in two minds on whether to attack or defend against the Australian spinners led by Nathan Lyon (5/67 in 29 overs), who grabbed his 22nd five-wicket haul.

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There were no demons in the track but a few cracks on the good and short-of-good-length spots on both sides of the strip led the ball to keep low.

Indian batters and LBWs

Most top-order India batters were adjudged leg-before on the front-foot, barring skipper Rohit Sharma, who was bowled playing across the line.

The worrying trend was India batters playing the Australian spinners with their pads as the first line of defence. However, Axar and Ashwin applied the strategy to consistently counter-attack the bowlers despite the fall of seven wickets.

Instead of plonking the front-foot forward, they used the pace of the deliveries from Todd Murphy (2/53 in 18 overs) and debutant left-arm spinner Matt Kuhnemann (2/72 in 21.3 overs), to score runs.

Also read: Shami stars as India bowls out Australia for 263

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 was determined at the other end and did not let go of the scoring opportunities as Australia lost the initiative after dominating the better part of the first one-and-a-half sessions on Saturday.

Unlucky Kohli

India lost wickets in a heap in the morning session before Virat Kohli (44 off 84 balls) and Ravindra Jadeja (26 off 74 balls) steadied the innings in the post-lunch session by adding 59 runs for the fifth wicket.

But once Murphy, playing his second Test, and debutant Kuhnemann dismissed the duo in quick succession, things went downhill quickly for the hosts. The difference one saw between the Australian spin attack in Nagpur and Delhi could be due to the pace of the Kotla track.

Virat Kohli
Photo: BCCI

Credit must be given to stalwart Lyon and the two young spinners for keeping up the pressure despite losing three referrals in the first hour of day two.

Kohli, who played with a lot of composure and was looked good for a big score, would consider himself unlucky that he had to head back due to an umpire’s call. Kuhnemann’s arm ball seemed to be brushing the leg-bail and India’s No. 1 batter looked distraught as there was no conclusive evidence on whether the ball hit the pad first or the bat.

Before that, a Murphy slider caught India’s most consistent Test batter Jadeja plumb in front.

Rahul’s bad form continues

In the morning session, KL Rahul’s bad patch continued while Cheteshwar Pujara had a forgettable first innings outing in his 100th Test. Only Rohit Sharma (32) looked in good touch as a vintage Lyon was in his element, troubling the top-order repeatedly.

Rahul (17), who survived two DRS appeals, was trapped leg-before as Lyon tossed one from round the wicket and got it to deviate enough and find his pads. Rahul’s run of failures will again spur the debate about whether young Shubman Gill should have been given the opportunity to play in the ongoing Test.

Rohit seemed to carry from where he had left in the first Test and was also playing the sweep shot to good effect. However, he played across the line to a straighter one from Lyon and was castled in the process.

Rarely has Pujara walked in to bat amid such fanfare – the 20,000-plus Kotla crowd kept chanting his name – but his milestone match turned out to be an anti-climax as he failed to bother the scorers.

It was another flighted delivery from Lyon which turned back enough and the orthodox Rajkot man tried to play a half-forward defensive stroke only to be caught plumb in front. He would like to forget the innings in a hurry.

Brief Scores:

Australia: 263 all out and 61 for 1 in 12 overs (Travis Head 39 not out; Ravindra Jadeja 1/23)

India 1st Innings: 262 all out in 83.3 overs (Axar Patel 74, Virat Kohli 44; Nathan Lyon 5/67)

(With agency inputs)

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