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6.15pm: Stumps – India 277 for 5
WATCH: Ajinkya Rahane gets to his century with a four through point
A century of the highest calibre by Ajinkya Rahane put India in control of the second Test after it appeared Australia would bowl themselves back into contention. Instead, with the help of a string of middle-order allies, chiefly the recalled Ravindra Jadeja, Rahane lifted his team to an advantage of 82.
Australia started the day very well – Pat Cummins producing a magnificent eight-over spell that removed both overnight batsmen, Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara, and included barely a delivery off line – but tailed off during the final session which including shipping 45 runs in the 11.3 overs of the second new ball. Rain brought a slightly early finish, what ended up being the final delivery of the day bringing Rahane his third life when he fended a short ball to point against Mitchell Starc but the chance burst out of Travis Head’s hands as he hit the turf.
They had two other opportunities to remove Rahane – one a miss and the other a drop. On 57, he edged Starc between Tim Paine and the lone slip Steven Smith moments after the off-side field had been strengthened at the expense of the cordon. Then, on 73, in the first over with the second new ball a chance went to hand, Rahane jabbing at a full, wide delivery, but Smith was late to react above his head at second slip. By the end of the day, Australia were ragged and in need of regrouping.
Full report to follow
5.40pm: A great century
What a performance from Ajinkya Rahane – he has brought up a magnificent century as India continue to build their lead. This will rank right up there with any of his batting performances.
Absolute gem from Rahane. A captain’s innings in all sense. He had scored a blazing hundred at MCG six years ago, but this is innings of much higher quality on a tough pitch and against one of the great bowling attacks
— Sambit Bal (@sambitbal) December 27, 2020
5.00pm: New ball
The 80-over mark has been reached and, unsurprisingly, the new ball has been taken (and a momentary delay where the fourth umpire, Gerard Abood, realised he didn’t have it with him much to Paul Reiffel’s amusement). The lights are on, it’s gloomy afternoon, not sure we’ll get all the overs in but it should be a good time to bowl. The lead is now at a stage where Australia need to wrap things up fairly quickly. This has been an excellent partnership between Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja.
And Rahane has been dropped in the first over, on 74, when he jabbed a full delivery which flew quickly above Steve Smith’s head at second slip…
Here’s Sid Monga:
At his pre-match press conference, Ajinkya Rahane was asked a question, which I felt he would find disrespectful. He was asked if he will stay in touch with Virat Kohli for advice through the series. Rahane must be used to people questioning his place in the side, so perhaps this was no surprise. Very politely he said he would not like to disturb Kohli, wary as he might have been if he had said it was his team now and he didn’t need advice and that it wasn’t as if he would take the side in some diametrically opposite direction. He also said his aggression is seen in his batting not body language.
As much had been visible in his role in his batting away from home. It was possible to bowl to others with set plans, but Rahane liked to dominate. You had to get him early. Somewhere along the way, after he was dropped in South Africa, he perhaps lost that natural tempo. In this series he has worked hard on his defence and has looked to get himself in before he looks to dominate.
Rahane averages more away than home, more against pace than spin, and this innings will go a long way in reinstating him as one of India’s first picks in away Tests.
4.40pm: Stringing them together
From 64 for 3 when Cheteshwar Pujara fell, this has been a superb effort from India’s middle order:
Rahane + Vihari = 52 runs
Rahane + Pant = 57 runs
Rahane + Jadeja = 50 runs*
4.15pm: Big miss for Australia?
India have taken the lead since tea – with the rain having cleared – with Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja making steady progress ahead of the arrival of the second new ball. Australia had a chance to remove Rahane on 57 when a thick edge flew between Tim Paine and Steven Smith who was the lone slip, Paine having strengthened the off-side field moments before.
Highlights: Ajinkya Rahane leads India’s fight in the second session
3.10pm: Tea – India 189 for 5
That was India’s session. Some proactive batting by Rishabh Pant and a terrific captain’s innings from Ajinkya Rahane has put them within sight of a precious lead – two sets off four byes when Mitchell Starc was bowling were helpful. Australia will need a big push early in the final session before the new ball becomes due. There is some rain floating around the area which arrived shortly before the break so hopefully that stays away.
WATCH: Mitchell Starc ends Pant’s counterattacking stay for 250th Test wicket
3.00pm: Who’s ahead?
Mitchell Starc has broken a very threatening stand to give Australia a lift shortly before tea. Rishabh Pant went for a cut and got a thin edge to Tim Paine, giving Starc his 250th Test. Now it’s over to Ravindra Jadeja to try and repeat the partnership with Ajinkya Rahane. India are less than 20 behind if they could get somewhere around 75 ahead that would be priceless.
2.25pm: Change in momentum
Rishabh Pant is putting the pressure back on the Australia bowler, scoring at a run-a-ball in the early stages of his innings as the deficit is whittled down at a rate not seen previously in the match. So far, Pant has shown excellent shot selection and hasn’t done anything reckless despite plenty of encouragement from the Australians. The first two overs of Pat Cummins’ comeback spell went for 20 – his eight overs earlier in the day cost just 12. Meanwhile, Ajinkya Rahane is playing his part with a very measured innings but seems to be having some problems with his back.
Australia might be getting to the stage where they have half an eye on the second ball, but that’s still 25 overs away and if they are still batting India will be in the lead by then.
Australia are bowling to a left hander for the first time in the series. They have to change their line , lengths and angle. Always helps having a few left handers to upset the rhythm. #AUSvIND
— Gaurav Sundararaman (@gaurav_sundar) December 27, 2020
1.45pm: Lyon in the game
The signs are that Nathan Lyon could have a big say in this game. There has been significant turn for him since lunch, one delivery ragging sharply down the leg side from outside off and then another almost getting through Ajinkya Rahane as he tried to cut. He has provided the breakthrough that Australia needed, removing Hanuma Vihari from a gloved sweep that looped to slip. It was the ball after Vihari had played a delightful back-cut to bring up a hard-working fifty-run stand. Rahane has also needed some treatment on what looked like it could be a back problem. It’s a big test now for the middle-order allrounders.
WATCH: Australia’s bowlers produce another testing session for India top order
1.00pm: Pitch praise
Australia’s coach Justin Langer was full of praise for the MCG pitch in his lunchtime conversation with Ricky Ponting on Seven:
“From my point of view it was a brilliant cricket wicket. Like the first Test with Damian Hough, amazing job. The most important thing for Test cricket is the wickets we play on and a contest between bat and ball. In Adelaide it was definitely that and yesterday I thought the same. We didn’t play with the bat as well as we could’ve. I thought Matt Page and his staff have done an incredibly job to have the game moving forward. The best players will make runs and the bowlers will be rewarded if they bowl as well as India did yesterday and we are at the moment. Really good Test wicket this one.”
He also gave an update on David Warner:
“As we’ve said for the last few weeks, there’s no one more professional and he’s doing everything possible. We saw him bat the day before the game. He’s batting again this afternoon here at the MCG. So in terms of his batting, he’s flying. It’s just he’s still having some trouble with his groin, and we know how dynamic he is – his running between the wickets, the way he’s moving all the time. So he’s getting closer and we’re hopeful that he will come good. He’s certainly hopeful he’s going to come good, but time will tell. We still have a few more days till the next Test match. Fingers crossed he’s ready to go for that third Test match.”
12.30pm: Lunch – India 90 for 3
That was tough Test cricket: 54 runs in 26 overs. Hanuma Vihari and Ajinkya Rahane have done very well to get India through to the break without further loss. The bowling has been very demanding, led by Pat Cummins, but the pair have repelled everything so far. Mitchell Starc, who waited behind Cameron Green in the bowling queue today, caused problems by moving the ball both ways but the frustrations of not adding to his early wicket were just starting to show. However, Australia will know that there is uncertainty in what follows in the India batting order with a couple of allrounders before the bowlers. This game is too close to call at the moment
Here’s a nugget from Shiva Jayaraman of the stats team:
It’s been a hard toil for the India batsmen in this series and runs have been hard to come by even when they have managed to hang around at the crease. It’s evidenced in how Ajinkya Rahane has gone about scoring in this series. Rahane scored 1 and 3 in the first 25 balls he faced in the first innings at Adelaide and here, respectively. This is among his lowest five scores when he’s faced 25 balls in a Test innings (81 innings). Rahane’s average scoring rate in off the first 25 balls he faces in a Test innings is 59.4.
11.35am: Cummins, again
Australia are surging back through a fantastic spell from Pat Cummins. After beating the edge again and again he then drew one from Shubman Gill, driving away from his body, which was a regulation take for Tim Paine. The next catch, however, was anything but regulation as a Cummins beauty drew a nick from Cheteshwar Pujara, it wouldn’t have carried to first slip (like a few today), and Paine dived full-length to his right to hold it inches off the turf. Now we’ll get a proper look at this reshaped India batting order. The game is wide open.
Here’s Sid Monga:
That Pujara wicket was the 33rd time India were not in control this innings. During the 36 all out, they were bowled out in 32 such not-in-control responses. Shows you how unlucky they were in edging everything and those edges carrying. This one wicket for 11 false responses is about the going rate in Test cricket, where you need to do it for a little over 10 times to get a wicket
WATCH – Paine pouches Pujara’s nick off sensational Cummins
11.15am: Australia miss early chance
It has been a nip-and-tuck start to the day and Australia should have had a wicket. Tim Paine couldn’t hold onto an inside edge in the second over the day off Shubman Gill. Australia had also used a review on the opening delivery when Pat Cummins nearly took Cheteshwar Pujara’s edge, but the small sound was bat clipping the pad. Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are making life hard work on an overcast, warm day with the floodlights already on.
10.30am: Have your say
10.00am: Can India take control?
The opening day of the Boxing Day Test could not have gone much better for India, but now they need to make it count. It was a good effort to lose just one wicket yesterday evening – now, if they can bat the day, they’ll be in a very strong position. However, Australia’s attack will have other ideas. It felt as though they pushed a little hard last night, but that can often be the case in a short session.
Here’s Dan Brettig on another uncertain batting display from the home side.
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) December 26, 2020
Highlights: India’s bowlers give Australia a stern test on day one
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
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