Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon got two wickets each to leave Australia in sight of a series-leveling victory in the second Test against India in Perth.At stumps on the fourth day, India were 112 for 5 with Rishabh Pant (9) and Hanuma Vihari (24) in the middle, still needing 175 for an unlikely victory. Mohammed Shami had earlier picked up 6 for 56, but couldn’t prevent Australia from stretching their score to 243 and setting India a 287-run target on a spicy pitch. Usman Khawaja (72) and Tim Paine (37) had added 72 for the fifth wicket to stretch their lead.
India needed a big, big effort from their batsmen to hold on to their lead. That was always going to be difficult given the nature of the pitch. It didn’t take too long to find out; KL Rahul fell for a duck four balls into the chase, inside-edging Mitchell Starc not knowing whether to play or leave.

Cheteshwar Pujara followed soon when he nicked Josh Hazlewood to the keeper as India were reduced to 13 for 2 before lunch.

For a brief while after the interval, the pitch seemed ‘normal’ with consistent bounce. M Vijay and Virat Kohli dug in for a while in a 35-run stand. Vijay, who has been loose in the series so far, was far more tight in defence and confident while driving. Kohli was being Kohli, and India moved on.

And then Lyon entered. He first had Kohli edging to slip with a straighter one, leaving India 48 for 3. There were seven wickets remaining, but it was perhaps game, set and match right there.

Lyon then had Vijay with a beautifully flighted one which tempted the batsman, only for the ball to turn in and hit the stumps.

Vijay’s 20 had taken 67 balls, and it remains to be seen if he’ll get another game at this level.

Ajinkya Rahane threw his bat around a bit for a 47-ball 30 and perished in the same mode, slashing Hazlewood to point. Vihari, who was yet again solid and impressive with the bat, took India to stumps without any further damage.

Australia began the day on 132 for 4, and set the perfect platform for the day with a wicket-less first session. Usman Khawaja and Tim Paine added only 58 runs from 30 overs before lunch, but India’s agony extended with every passing over.

Shami led the fightback after the break, getting Paine with a brutal, unplayable short ball that was gloved to Kohli at second slip. Aaron Finch, who had retired hurt with a thumb injury on the third day, followed the very next ball when he gloved one down leg side.

Khawaja too fell to a quick short ball from Shami which he edged to Rishabh Pant. Nathan Lyon then slashed Shami to deep point to give him his sixth wicket.

The momentum switched back to Australia when Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc added 36 for the last wicket, stretching the lead closer to 300.

First Published: December 17, 2018, 3:46 PM IST