2nd Test: Australia five wickets from levelling series in Perth
Nathan Lyon dismissed Virat Kohli for the seventh time in Tests. ©AFP

The threat of Nathan Lyon on a fourth-day up-and-down surface at Optus Stadium was to the fore as Australia moved to within five wickets of a series-levelling victory in the second Test in Perth.

Set a massive target of 287, India ended the day on 112/5. They need a further 175 runs, with Australia one strike away from entering a feeble tail. Further evidence that playing a fourth quick and not picking Ravindra Jadeja for his all-round skills was a poor call from India.

Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood followed a vital tenth-wicket stand of 36 that moved Australia from 207/9 to 243 by striking early with the new ball to send India into tea with butterflies in their stomaches, but it was Lyon’s removal of Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay in consecutive overs that really shut the door on India.

AS IT HAPPENED: DAY FOUR, PERTH

KL Rahul was bowled by Starc for 0 when trying to leave and Cheteshwar Pujara on four was undone by a snorter from Hazlewood. India were 13/2 and wobbling. Kohli got as far as 17 before he was lured into an edge to first slip, the result of Lyon’s unerring accuracy and ability to get revs on the ball. Moments later, Lyon landed one into the big rough patch outside off stump and had Vijay bowled when inside-edging a feeble attempt at a drive.

Australia celebrated each of these massive strikes with gusto; the skipper  Tim Paine sending Kohli on his way with an earful and Travis Head at silly point pumping his fists and roaring in ecstasy as Rahane stood dumbfounded. After five overs, Lyon had conceded three runs and had two massive wickets in his pocket.

Ajinkya Rahane got 30 before he cut Hazlewood to Head at point, and at stumps Hanuma Vihari (24*) and Rishabh Pant (9*) have their work cut out.

ALSO READ: Kohli, Paine come close to chest bumping in Perth before umpire interrupts

A scoreline of 112/5 has shoved firmly into the background the efforts of Mohammed Shami who earlier bowled excellently to claim career-best figures of 6/56. His nasty spell of 9-2-22-4 either side of lunch was what India desperately needed after a wicketless morning session, during which Usman Khawaja and Paine added 58 runs in 30 overs.

ALSO READ: Shami breaks Kumble’s record of most overseas Test wickets in a year

In the morning session, Khawaja moved from 41 to 67 and Paine was 37 from 111 balls at the lunch break. It wasn’t for T20-weaned viewers. Paine and Khawaja had some plays-and-misses, both when pushing and wafting, as the odd ball hit a crack and either stayed low or sprang up. Even Vihari’s off spin had Paine feeling and missing, which would have made Lyon very interested.

Mohammed Shami picked up is best Test figures on day four in Per
Mohammed Shami picked up is best Test figures on day four in Perth. ©AFP

Khawaja got his fifty off 155 balls, a dour innings which has batted him back to a level of confidence. The left-hander got several deliveries that kept low, but his approach allowed the score to move on at a sedate pace which suited Australia just fine.

As the wicketless overs ticked on, Kohli appeared more and more frustrated and was seen having a yap with Paine, whom he had been heard over the stump mics on Sunday giving a go to the Australian skipper. During the first session, Kohli came chest to chest with Paine as the batsman crossed the pitch.

The was day snapped out of its somber mood immediately after lunch with two wickets in two balls to Shami, who ended Paine’s resistance on 37 with a sharp bouncer which the Australian captain glanced to Pant, and next ball strangled Aaron Finch down the leg side, the resultant gloved shot being pouched by Pant. Should Australia have sent Finch out immediately after lunch, given he had only been cleared to bat a couple of hours earlier? It is debatable.

The new ball as grabbed without hesitation but Pat Cummins deflected the hat-trick ball wide of gully for a single. Next to go was Khawaja for 72 off 213 deliveries, surprised by a ball that hit a crack and leapt up to take the glove through to Pant. It needed a brute of delivery to end such an obdurate innings, one that laid the template for how to bat on this tricky Perth surface.

Without a run added, Australia next lost Cummins who was beaten by a ball from Jasprit Bumrah that crept under his bat. When Lyon backed away and sliced out to deep point running in, it gave Shami career-best figures and the most wicket for an Indian bowler in away Tests during a calendar year, surpassing the 41 that Anil Kumble claimed in 2006.

Starc and Hazlewood used their angled bats to produce useful runs, each hitting boundaries to add on the pressure. Their new-ball breakthroughs put India on a rocky road, which Lyon’s double-strike blew up.

Stumps: India 282 & 112/5 need 175 runs to beat Australia 326 & 243 (Khawaja 72, Shami 6/56)