Virat Kohli (36*) and Cheteshwar Pujara (23*) dug in in the second session on day two of the second Test at the Optus Stadium, Perth to take India from precarious 8/2 to a  healthy 70/2 at tea, in reply to Australia‘s first innings total of 326.


After India had lost Murali Vijay in the first session – cleaned up by Mitchell Starc with a peach of a delivery, Josh Hazlewood bettered Starc’s effort early in the second session with a yorker length that moved away late and KL Rahul played all over it to lose his stumps for jut two runs.

With the conditions overcast, Australian quicks had their tales up, but Kohli walked in with intent and started off with a perfectly timed straight drive to make his intentions clear. Kohli, batting outside his crease, went for his shots and even got three boundaries of one Hazlewood over.

His brief counterattack forced Australia skipper Tim Paine to bring in Nathan Lyon – in the 14th over – and even though the offspinner found his radar and rhythm right from the first ball he bowled, Kohli and Pujara managed to keep the offspinner’s threat at bay.

Lyon’s first five overs yielded just 4 runs and Australia applied the squeeze on India’s run rate. Pujara played out 24 deliveries without scoring a run. He finally ran two, which brought up the 50-run stand for the third wicket between him and Pujara off 135 balls.

In 29 overs, they scored 66 runs, but more importantly, kept their wickets intact. At tea, India trail Australia by 256 runs.

Earlier, for the second day running, a poor first hour has threatened to cost India  the Perth Test. On Saturday morning at Optus Stadium, Tim Paine and Pat Cummins extended their overnight alliance to 59 before Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah separated them in the span of three deliveries.

The end came not long after, with Ishant Sharma taking two in two, but in allowing Australia to move from 277/6 to 326 the touring team has added to its workload. Australia will be very happy with that total, which for India will look miles away at 6/1 after the loss of Murali Vijay for 0.

It wasn’t that India bowled badly in the first hour, but not enough balls hit the stumps and forced the pair to play. Top teams carry a killer instinct when faced with the task of running through lower orders on such helpful tracks. India lacked that, and Australia moved from 277/6 to 326. Not starting with Bumrah with a nine-overs-old ball first thing in the morning was also surprising.

Plays and misses meshed with dabs and steers and flicks as 29 runs came from the first hour. Cummins is no tailender and displayed once again a firm technique and some crisp drives. He was tested by bouncers from Umesh and and away-swingers from Bumrah but somehow survived. Ishant Sharma belted out an appeal for lbw, Mohammed Shami cursed as he nearly had Cummins edging onto the stumps.

Paine had close calls too, having edged just short of second slip, seen one ball just go over the top of off stump and fallen to his backside after Shami hustled him with a bouncer. A few errant deliveries, such as a full toss from Bumrah and rank wide ball from Shami, were duly bashed away.

The seventh-wicket stand was ended with a top delivery from Umesh, reward for pitching the ball up. Cummins, on 19, was beaten for movement and lost his off stump on his 66th delivery faced. Two balls later, Paine was rooted to the crease when a full delivery from Bumrah jagged in and had him a goner. Paine reviewed, but in vain, and was sent on his way for 38 from 89 balls.

Ishant came back for a second spell and had Mitchell Starc edging to Rishabh Pant, the key once again being the fuller length and a bit of wobble. Next ball, he went fuller and had Josh Hazlewood edging to a diving Pant. Like Shami in Adelaide, Ishant will be on a hat-trick when Australia bat again having taken 4/41, his best figures in Australia.

Starc did not take long to strike in his primary role. Getting a full ball to move into a leaden-footed Vijay, he bowled the opener for a 12-ball duck.

Lunch: India 70/2 trail Australia 326 (Ishant 4/41) by 256 runs