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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sun returns to Adelaide as Kohli leads India's reply to Australia's first innings: T1D3

India 5/369 (97 ov, Kohli 115/184b/12x4, Pujara 73/135b/ 9x4, Rahane 62/76b/10x4, Vijay 53/88b/3x4,2x6, Johnson 2/90, Lyon 2/103) trail Australia 7/517d by 148 runs with 5 1st inns wkts in hand: T1/4 D3/4 at Adelaide Oval.

After Michael Clarke declared, as expected,  at Australia's overnight score, India batted throughout the extended - to catch up some of the time lost yesterday - day's play. Unlike Australia, none of the top order batters failed, unless you consider Shikar Dhawan's swashbuckling 25/24b at the start of the innings to be a failure, yet several of them fell when better things seemed to be within their reach.

The best innings was Virat Kohli's. He seemed to show no ill effects from being struck on the helmet by a Mitchell Johnson bouncer before he'd scored, which was a relief to everyone though I thought at the time that the umpires might have asked for an expert opinion before allowing play to continue. In the event it didn't matter, as the stand in skipper stamped his authority on the match with some authoritative strokeplay, taking advantage of poor bowling and sometimes chancing his eye against quite good bowling. He moved easily to his century, then tried to show Johnson once too often who was boss, and was caught (well by a diving Ryan Harris) at deep fine leg hooking a bouncer.

Passing, or even approaching, 517 was going to require at least one big score. Kohli's 115 was, for all its flair, not what I'd call a big score:150-200 was what I had in mind. Yet each specialist batter put runs on the board, contributing to partnerships which made Clarke think hard about how to contain or break them. Even Dhawan's cameo at the start of the innings took the wind out of Johnson's sails for a while by letting him know  that he wasn't going to have the field day he had here against England last year. Cheteshwar Pujara was solid, Ajinka Rahane enterprising and Murali Vijay grew in confidence the longer he stayed.

The Australian bowlers persisted, without always or even often, looking likely to break through. Johnson and Harris may not have been at their best, but they didn't bowl as raggedly as the Indian quicks had often done during Australia's innings. The surprise packet was Nathan Lyon, who was introduced - and punished - early, but later regrouped and bowled tightly, obtaining spin and bounce from the drop in pitch. He nagged away and was justly rewarded with the wickets of  the well set Pujara and Rahane.

Michael Clarke remained on the field for most of the day, changing most of the bowlers frequently while  giving Lyon a long spell which paid dividends. There were several good contests between bat and ball, and at times India looked as if it was going to pass that 517. But Kohli's demise has made that look less likely. Rohit Sharma 33*/60b looks comfortable, but he has only to tail to support him and, as Rahane found out when a ball popped on him, the wicket is playing the occasional trick.

This has been an intriguing Test match so far. Tis a pity about the loss of so much play yesterday as this probably means that the most feasible results are a win to Australia or a draw.

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