Bowlers put India in sight of series-leveling win

India marched towards a dominant series-levelling victory after their formidable bowlers scythed through the Australian batting, relentlessly pressing home the advantage of a sizeable first-innings lead on the third day of the second Test, here on Monday.

Australia were wobbling at 133 for six at stumps on the third day of the Boxing Day Test at the magnificent Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Aiming to exorcise the ghosts of being bowled out for a lowest ever 36 in the series-opener, the visitors had put up 326 on the board for a 131-run lead in reply to Australia’s first-innings total of 195 all out. Australia were ahead by only two runs at close of play.

 “This game is not over yet, we still have to get four more wickets,” India skipper AjinkyaRahane, whose hundred on the second day set the tone for the side, told broadcasters Sony Network at the end of day’s play.

 “Credit to the bowlers, they bowled in the right areas,” he added.

Seeking to wipe out the deficit, Australia began their second innings on a disastrous note as Joe Burns (4) not only got out for a poor score, but also wasted a review after pacer UmeshYadav (1/5) opened him up with the one that swung away very late.

Introduced early into the attack, seasoned off-spinner RavichandranAshwin (1/46) once again showed his class when he bamboozled MarnusLabuschagne (28 off 49 balls) with a slider that went straight with the angle.

Ashwin let one slide across and with the batsman looking to defend. The ball went the other way and took an outside edge on its way to Rahane at first slip.  Matthew Wade (27 batting, 89 balls) and Steve Smith (6 batting, 20 balls) survived the remaining overs prior to the tea break, which they took at 65 for two. At that break, the hosts trailed India by 66 runs.

More misery awaited Australia in the final session when they lost four wickets for the addition of 68 runs, taking India closer to an equaliser in the four-match series after the humiliating defeat in the opener at Adelaide Oval.

 Smith’s horror run in the series continued as he was bowled by JaspritBumrah (1/34) round his legs when the ball clipped the bails of the off-stump after the batsman had shuffled too much.

Wade, looking the best among Australian batsmen, was trapped in front of the wicket by RavindraJadeja (2/25) at 98 for four. And while the score remained the same, Australia lost another wicket in Travis Head a couple of overs later.

There was no encore of skipper Tim Paine’s battling knock in the first Test as he was caught behind off the bowling of Jadeja.

Australia could have been seven down had Pant held on to a Pat Cummins edge off Ashwin.