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Sports

Rahane half-century puts India in driving seat against Australia

  • But Cummins finally got the wicket he deserved when Gill, who added 17 to his overnight score after being preferred as opener to the axed Prithvi Shaw, got a nick and Paine took a simple catch.
Published December 27, 2020
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MELBOURNE: Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane hit a gritty half-century as India closed within six runs of Australia's first innings 195 to seize the advantage at tea on day two of the second Test in Melbourne Sunday.

It was a determined and methodical knock by the mild-mannered Rahane, who is leading the team after Virat Kohli returned home for the birth of his first child.

Batting at four, he faced 121 balls in his unbeaten 53 to steer India to 189 for five. Ravindra Jadeja was not out four with the hosts taking two wickets in the middle session.

Rahane was ably accompanied by the exuberant Rishabh Pant, back in the team instead of Wriddhiman Saha, who scored a breezy 29 before becoming Mitchell Starc's 250th Test wicket, caught by Tim Paine for his 150th dismissal.

Hanuma Vihari was the other wicket to fall. He brought up a 50 partnership with Rahane but then tried to sweep Nathan Lyon on 21, with the ball catching his glove and popping up to Steve Smith.

Rahane had treatment on what appeared to be a back issue, but battled on to play a captain's innings after Pat Cummins removed Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara in a quality spell before lunch, then Vihari and Pant departed.

He brought up his 23rd Test 50 in his 67th Test with a boundary off Starc as India look to level the series after crashing by eight wickets in Adelaide last week.

On an overcast day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with more than 20,000 socially-distanced fans watching, they resumed on 36 for one, having weathered a torrid 11 overs Saturday when they lost Mayank Agarwal for a duck.

In an action-packed morning, Australia's attack consistently hit line and length with Cummins, the world's top Test bowler, chief destroyer, bagging impressive debutant Gill for 45 and the experienced Pujara for 17.

He signalled his intent with the first ball of the day, which zipped past Pujara's bat. Paine called for a review, believing it took a nick, but replays showed it was not out.

Gill also survived a scare in the first over he faced with wicketkeeper Paine at fault, failing to hold a difficult catch off Josh Hazlewood.

Both bowlers consistently beat the bat in the morning, but the luck ran India's way and Gill and Pujara brought up a 50-run stand, no mean feat after the team collapsed to 36 all out in Adelaide.

But Cummins finally got the wicket he deserved when Gill, who added 17 to his overnight score after being preferred as opener to the axed Prithvi Shaw, got a nick and Paine took a simple catch.

Cummins wasn't done and quickly removed Pujara, again enticing an edge with Paine holding a brilliant diving catch at full stretch as India lost two wickets for three runs.

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