2nd Test, Day 2: Nathan Lyon, Travis Head give Australia slight edge after Axar Patel slams 74 (Ld)

February 19, 2023

After Australia took a lead by a solitary run, as India were bowled out for 262 in their first innings, Head attacked to give the visitors’ some quick runs. Giving him company is Marnus Labuschagne at 16 not out.

For India, Left-arm spin all-rounder Axar Patel top-scored with his second consecutive fifty in the series as the hosts’ were bowled out for 262 in their first innings. At one point, it looked like Australia will have a huge lead, as India were 139/7 in 50.5 overs.

But Axar slammed 74 off 115 balls and shared an important 114-run partnership off 177 balls with Ravichandran Ashwin, who made 37 off 71 balls, for the eighth wicket to bring India on the threshold of taking a lead.

Despite the stand, they missed out on the lead by a solitary run as Australia wrapped up the Indian first innings within 3.3 overs of taking the second new ball. For Australia, premier off-spinner Nathan Lyon starred with 5/60, including taking four wickets in the morning session.

With 13 overs left in the day, Head made an instant impression as an opener, pulling and driving off Mohammed Shami for boundaries, and got a thick outer edge off Ravichandran Ashwin for his third four in five overs.

After being heaved over deep mid-wicket by Khawaja, Jadeja struck on the very next ball, as the left-handed batter swept straight to a sharp short leg moving to his left. Labuschagne took on Jadeja, sweeping twice and punching off backfoot to take three boundaries in the eighth over. Head took the rive against Jadeja and then danced down the pitch to hit Ashwin over long-on for six, before stumps were called on a riveting day.

India’s counter-attack began with Ashwin punching twice against Kuhnemann off backfoot. Axar, on the other hand, got going with a straight drive off Cummins, followed by drilling a drive over Kuhnemann’s head. On the very next ball, Axar slog-swept him over deep mid-wicket for six and when Cummins dropped short and wide, he was quick in hammering the cut past point.

In the final over before tea, Axar cracked a cut off backfoot through the off-side against Kuhnemann, as his partnership with Ashwin reached 40 at tea. The final session began with Lyon and Todd Murphy sharing bowling duties and countering them were Axar and Ashwin with defence, strike rotation and some lucky byes. As India reached 200, the crowd got its voice back and were cheering loudly for Axar and Ashwin.

Steve Smith at slip couldn’t make a dash for a low catch when Axar was batting, while Matthew Renshaw didn’t grab a chance of taking Ashwin’s catch at leg slip, giving the batters boundaries. Axar got his fifty in 94 balls when he lofted Matthew Kuhnemann over wide long-on for six, with the crowd massively entertained by his blitzkrieg.

Pat Cummins brought himself to find some reverse swing, but Axar hit him for a sumptuous drive between cover and mid-off for four, followed by a smashing cut through the off-side for another boundary. Lyon also came under the attack, with Axar cutting through backward point and an outside edge flying off Ashwin’s bat past slip to make it two fours in the over.

With the second new ball available, Australia took it and got success immediately as Ashwin chipped to a diving square leg off Cummins, falling for 37. Axar then created room against Murphy to hit him over extra cover for a flat six.

On the very next ball, Axar tried to go over mid-on, but Cummins dived to his left and took a one-handed screamer of a catch over his head. Kuhnemann ended the Indian innings by castling Shami for two.

The day began with KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma resuming from overnight score of 21/0. Australia burnt a review on trying to get Rahul out via lbw off Kuhnemann, and again lost a review on attempting to get the right-handed opener dismissed in same fashion, this time off the bowling of Cummins.

Lyon, bowling from round the wicket, got success by trapping Rahul lbw, rapping him low on the front pad. Cheteshwar Pujara, walking out to bat in his 100th Test, danced down the pitch to flick off Lyon. But he missed it and was trapped lbw, which was deemed not out.

Replays later showed if Australia had taken the DRS, Pujara could have been out for a golden duck. Rohit was clean bowled by Lyon through a quicker delivery which straightened and skid to hit the stumps.

Two balls later, Lyon had another scalp when he got one to turn back into Pujara and hit the front pad below the knee roll. After umpire Nitin Menon didn’t give it out, Australia took the review immediately and got Pujara out for a seven-ball duck as replays showed ball clipping leg stump.

Australia burnt their third and last review when they couldn’t get Shreyas Iyer out lbw off Todd Murphy as replays showed impact was outside off-stump. But in the next over, Lyon took his fourth wicket as Iyer flicked off the backfoot straight to forward short leg, who took the catch to his right after being hit on arm.

Kohli, who got a huge roar from his home crowd, defended well against the spinners apart from bringing his trademark flick off Kuhnemann. Jadeja, on the other hand, was also solid in defence while taking boundaries off Lyon through cover and wide of slip, taking India to safety at lunch.

Post lunch, Kohli and Jadeja took India to 100 in 39.3 overs. While Kohli was patient, precise in footwork, showed solid footwork and rotated the strike well, Jadeja was solid in defence and drove off Murphy while clipped off Lyon for boundaries.

Kohli then found an outside edge going past slip for four off Murphy, and danced down the pitch to chip the drive over mid-on for four. But the 59-run partnership came to an end as Murphy trapped Jadeja plumb lbw with an off-break delivery coming in with the arm. Jadeja took the review, but replays showed ball hitting middle stump.

Kohli became Kuhnemann’s maiden Test wicket when he was trapped lbw in front of middle-stump. With his bat and pad so close to meeting the ball at the same time, TV umpire Richard Illingworth concluded ball hit pad first and retained the on-field call as ball tracking showed umpire’s call, resulting in Kohli falling six runs short of his fifty.

KS Bharat began with a reverse-sweep off Lyon. But three balls later, he went for the sweep early against Lyon and edge lobbed off the glove to slip running backwards, giving the off-spinner his five-fer. From there, Ashwin and Axar took charge in another engrossing day of Test cricket in New Delhi, before Head added more thrills.

Brief scores: Australia 263 and 61/1 in 12 overs (Travis Head 39; Ravindra Jadeja 1/23) lead India 262 all out in 83.3 overs (Axar Patel 74, Virat Kohli 44; Nathan Lyon 5/67, Todd Murphy 2/53) by 62 runs

–IANS<br>nr/cs

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