A match-winning spell by Nathan Lyon and a catch for the ages by Steve Smith pushed Australia within sight of victory on the second day of the third Test in Indore on Thursday.
Lyon made full use of the erratic surface claiming 8 for 64 to bowl India out for 163 in their second innings at stumps, setting Australia a target of just 76.
India should remain grateful to Cheteshwar Pujara for his 59 off 142 balls as their much-famed batting order suffered another stunning collapse. The Indian bowlers could take some hope from the way Australia almost surrendered the advantage in the morning session.
Australia were ahead by 77 runs with six first-innings wickets intact at drinks on Day II only to lose the remaining wickets for 11 runs off 34 balls to let India claw back into the game. Umesh Yadav got the ball to reverse swing to take three wickets in three overs to finish with figures of 3 for 12, while Ravichandran Ashwin bagged three at the other end to bowl Australia out with a lead of just 88.
Pujara then provided a masterclass on batting on a spinning pitch despite losing partners at the other end. His defiance was terminated by a moment of brilliance from Smith, at leg slip, who held onto a quarter chance displaying amazing reflexes and concentration.
Smith, the stand-in captain, was brilliant on the field, marshalling his resources superbly, never allowing the game to drift away while making timely changes to his bowling to not allow the batters to get on top.
His moves paid off well when Shreyas Iyer, who counterattacked the spinners for a 26 off 27 balls, departed as soon as Mitchell Starc was brought on, Usman Khawaja taking a diving catch at mid-wicket.
Shreyas’ exit allowed Lyon to attack from around the wicket. He beat KS Bharat with one that turned and slid on to crash onto his stumps before trapping Ashwin plumb in front. Thereafter, Axar Patel’s resistance wasn’t good enough.
It is the sharp turn and uneven bounce on the wicket that is providing hope to the Indian players. “In cricket, anything can happen. It is not an easy wicket, whether it is our batters or theirs. It is not easy to step out and hit.
“The ball is keeping low as well, so you can’t be sure. The runs are less but we will stick to tight lines and push as much as we can,” said Umesh.
With PTI input
Offie proud of group
Indore: Unless this Test has another twist, Nathan Lyon must have bowled Australia to victory with his eight-wicket haul in Indore on Thursday. “It’s up there (among my best days), there’s no point lying about it,” the off spinner said.
“I’m just really proud of the way we’ve gone about it. Personal success is great to have but after Delhi, we had a couple of really good days off as a team, and really good conversations at training. Certainly, it’s up there as one of my career highlights. But I’m more proud of our group.”
What was remarkable was that the off spinner took all his wickets from round the wicket, which is seen as a negative tactics by some.
“I know a lot of people see it as a negative. I see it as total opposite. I think it’s very attacking, you are bringing all modes of dismissal.
“Times have changed when you were able to bowl over the stumps and still get guys in line.
“Yes, that may be the case every now and then but when you bowl that line, the good batters around the world they get outside the line straightaway. But when you come round the wicket with big spin, it brings in all modes of dismissal,” he explained.
Written with PTI inputs