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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kohli & Rahane bring India back into Test before Australia regroup: T3 D3

India 8/462 (126.2ov, Kohli 169/272b/18x4, Rahane 147/171b/21x4, Vijay 68/135b/7x4, Dhawan 28, Pujara 25, Harris 25-7-69-4, Lyon 2/108) trail Australia 530 by 68 runs with two 1st inns wkts in hand: T3/4 D 3/5 at MCG.

The highlight of the day was, it goes without saying, the Virat Kohli - Ajinkya Rahane 262 4th wicket partnership, which took India to within reach of Australia's considerable total. Then a middle order collapse from batters who played as if their team was already in the lead, allowed Australia to claw back a little and, almost, share the day's honours, but not its abiding memories.

Kohli reaffirmed his class, Rahane stepped up a couple of notches. Neither was overawed by the match situation: 3/147 when they came together. Both rode their luck, but given the quality of their strokeplay, few watchers would have been disappointed...until the pair defanged much of the home attack and a solid first innings lead looked well within the realm of probability rather than a distant and unlikely prospect.

Then Nathan Lyon, who'd bowled steadily without ever looking dangerous, except when he dropped the simplest of return catches, broke through. Ryan Harris, who hadn't hitherto bowled badly, roused his tired body for a final effort, inducing MS Dhoni to edge to the keeper and then, while Australian supporters held their breath, juggled and eventually caught a return catch from Ravi Ashwin. 

Kohli held out until the last over, when he swiped at Mitchell Johnson, giving the chastened (not that it was obvious from his demeanour) paceman his first wicket - for 133. 

After today's quality tomorrow may well be an anticlimax.   The weather forecast isn't promising while Australia, after today's mixed bag of experiences, may be content to play for a draw, and thus series win. The wicket played well today but the local experts expect it to deteriorate from here on. Whether or not that happens, or rain intervenes, will influence tactics for the last two days, but don't expect a quarter generous (as at Adelaide) Declaration by Australia.

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