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Australia ahead despite Rahane-Kohli dazzle

India loses both centurions in last session to end third day at 462 for 8, trailing by 68

Australia ahead despite Rahane-Kohli dazzle - Cricket News
Virat Kohli (169) and Ajinkya Rahane (147) put on 262 runs for the fourth wicket before Australia fought back to restrict India to 462 for 8.
At the end of the second day’s play of the third Test at Melbourne, R Ashwin signed off from his press conference on a simple note when asked where he hoped the Test would go. “I am no one to basically look and comment on this game,” began Ashwin. “But, if you ask me I will say only one thing: we’ll make 650 and try and put them back in.” Today, India batted as though it did not merely want to get to 650, but that it would prefer to do so by the end of the third day itself.
 
In the end, a mini collapse towards the end meant that India went from blasting down the highway to having to hit cruise control as five wickets fell for 53 runs, leaving the team on 462 for 8, still trailing by 68.
 
Virat Kohli’s star has been on a linear rise ever since he cemented his place in the Test team, the tour of England being the only blip along the way. In Australia, he has won over audiences from the moment he stepped on these shores in this latest sojourn, and on Sunday (December 28), his reputation was further enhanced by a visceral 169.
 
While every player in the Australia team knows just what Kohli can do, and most respect him for the manner in which he goes about his job, a new star peeped over the horizon in Ajinkya Rahane. Where Kohli is all fist pumps and aggression, Rahane is politeness personified. But, if anyone mistook being softspoken for soft, that impression was swiftly corrected as Rahane unleashed a barrage of bristling strokes, going hardest at the most feared bowler to end on 147.
 
Rahane and Kohli came together after M Vijay had fallen in the slips after a typically well-made 68, with India 147 for 3. Vijay’s dismissal was similar to Cheteshwar Pujara’s just two balls into the day, when the batsman played the softest of shots to glide a catch towards the slip cordon. Flinging himself full length to his right, Brad Haddin pulled off a stunning catch.
 
From there on, though, there was little to celebrate for Australia’s finest. Vijay and Kohli added 39 for the third wicket. After that, Kohli and Rahane had a competition of sorts going, and feasted on the bowling, matching each other munch for munch. The manner in which Rahane burst out of the blocks was particularly interesting given his penchant for being a nervy starter. On the day, there was no sign of this whatsoever, the ball being met by the meat of the bat.


 
When Rahane was going strong, putting pressure on the bowlers, Kohli hung back, deflecting the ball into the acres of empty space available at the Melbourne Cricket Ground’s vast outfield. Kohli had every shot in the book, and with the bowlers flagging, he only need to use a percentage of these, playing the ones that involved the least risk.
 
Rahane got to his half-century off 60 balls, 26 fewer than what Kohli needed and the century partnership for the fourth wicket was the first of many milestones to fall by the wayside. Kohli, who had a 26-run headstart on Rahane, had the good sense not to try and match the tempo set by the batsman who came after him, and embraced Rahane when he got to three figures first. It’s not often that Kohli is outscored by another batsman, but Rahane was more than just in the mood on the day.
 
It certainly helped India that a team that prides itself in having the highest fielding standards in the world put down at least three catches at different times of the day in varying parts of the field. Peter Siddle, on as a substitute, Shane Watson at slip and Nathan Lyon off his own bowling released the pressure, and once this happened Rahane and Kohli turned tables.
 
In the course of their 262-run stand, Kohli and Rahane became the first pair from any country to stick together for more than 200 runs for the fourth wicket at this iconic ground. What the partnership also did was move the game along at breakneck pace. And it is in this light that Rahane’s dismissal must be viewed. Even with a fielder out for the sweep, Rahane took on Lyon, blasting the ball to the fence. Off the next ball he tried to repeat the stroke and missed, given out lbw for 147. In top gear at the time, the easy thing for Rahane to do would have been to dial it down a notch, but he persevered, and it cost him.
 
Similarly Kohli (169) disregarded the age-old rule that is virtually stricture in cricket: play out the last over of the day and come back to attack the next. Johnson, who had bowled 29.1 overs for no wickets at more than 4.5 an over, finally tasted joy as Kohli’s flashing drive was caught by Haddin flying across first slip.
 
The day ended as it had began, with acrobatics behind the stumps, and much else had happened in between, including a forgettable debut for KL Rahul, who tried to hit everything that came at him, but the day belonged to Kohli and Rahane.

To review the Australia v India match in full, please click here.

 

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