Kohli leads Indian fightback on day two in Perth
Virat Kohli pulls one (AFP Image)

Captain Virat Kohli led India’s fightback on day two of the second Test against Australia at Perth on Saturday. At stumps, the visitors had overcome a terrible start and were 172 for three, still trailing Australia’s first-innings total of 326 by 154 runs with seven wickets in hand.

The imperious Kohli was unbeaten on 82 and shaping as the major stumbling block for Australia, with Ajinkya Rahane also in fine touch on 51, the pair having added 90 for the third wicket. Up 1-0 in the four-Test series, India made a terrible start to their first innings after cleaning up the Australian tail in the morning session.

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With the last ball before lunch, left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc found a gap between opener Murali Vijay’s bat and pad to send his stumps flying for a 12-ball duck. Shortly after play resumed both openers were gone, with Josh Hazlewood getting through KL Rahul’s defences to bowl him for two with India slumping to eight for two on what appeared a tricky pitch on the first day.

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However, Kohli looked comfortable from the moment he strode to the crease, a crisp on-drive from the second ball he faced from Hazlewood racing to the boundary. His only real moment of concern came on 22, when he left a delivery from spinner Nathan Lyon and the ball just bounced over the bails.

Kohli faced 181 balls and hit nine fours, with a 25th Test century firmly in his sights on a wicket showing few of the devils of the first day. Rahane hit six fours in 103 and had the honour of hitting the first Test match six at the new venue. The stubborn Pujara offered strong support for Kohli initially, although he was fortunate to survive an early edge from the bowling of Hazlewood when he had just two runs.

The ball bounced just in front of Shaun Marsh at first slip, with Paine choosing not to go for the catch. The pair added 74 before first Test centurion Pujara fell in surprising fashion for 24, caught down the leg side by wicketkeeper Tim Paine from a wayward Starc (2-42) delivery.

– Australia collapse –

Earlier, India had cleaned up the Australian tail with Ishant Sharma (4-41) on a hat-trick in the second innings. At 310 for six, the home side were edging towards an imposing first innings total after winning the toss and electing to bat.

But the Indians, who are out to win their first-ever series in Australia, struck back to claim the last four wickets for just 16 runs. Australia resumed at 277 for six, with overnight batsmen Paine and Pat Cummins building a useful lower order partnership.

The pair put on 59 before Cummins (19) was clean bowled by a sharp delivery from Umesh Yadav (2-78) to end his 66-ball knock. That sparked the Australian collapse, with Paine then trapped lbw by Jasprit Bumrah two balls later for 38.

Sharma claimed the wickets of Starc (6) and Josh Hazlewood (0) in successive balls to end the innings. Given the nature of the pitch, it seemed a competitive total by the Australians. They will be disappointed, however, that a number of batsmen got starts but failed to make big scores.

Opener Marcus Harris top-scored with 70, with Travis Head adding 58 and Aaron Finch contributing 50, with the latter’s 112-run partnership with Harris at the top of the order providing an excellent foundation for the home side.