Cheteshwar Pujara (57) and KL Rahul (60) impressed with gritty half-centuries but off-spinner Nathan Lyon took four wickets to dent India’s charge towards Australia’s first innings of 300.
India looked in a comfortable position at tea and looked set to overhaul Australia’s score easily but things took a turn for the worse in the final session as the hosts lost four wickets cheaply to throw away their advantage.
India were 248 for six at stumps on Day 2, still trailing by 52 runs. Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane (46) put up a brief fight but also fell victim to Lyon’s guile.
India were 153 for two at tea and looked good to take a first innings lead without much fuss but like Australia in the their first innings, the hosts lost wickets in a bunch to hand the momentum back to the Australians.
Ravichandran Ashwin (30) played a patient knock but was trapped plumb in front of the stumps by Lyon. Ravindra Jadeja (16*) and Wriddhiman Saha (10*) hit some big shots towards the fag end of the day to take India closer to Australia’s score.
Pat Cummins impressed for the Australians with his pace and bounce causing quite a few difficulties to the Indian batsmen but openers Murali Vijay (11) and Rahul played valiantly to keep the Aussie pacer at bay, at least for a while.
Vijay was the first wicket to fall, caught behind off the bowling of Josh Hazlewood. Rahul and Pujara strung together a 87-run stand for the second wicket to lead India’s fightback.
The post-lunch session saw a gruelling contest between the bat and the ball with the hosts scoring 89 runs from 32 overs while losing one wicket.
Rahul, dropped on 14 by Matt Renshaw at first slip off Pat Cummins, gained in confidence after a cautious start to his innings.
The 24-year-old right-hander raced to his fifth half-century of the series and sixth in Tests with a boundary off O’Keefe.
Rahul’s belligerence ended when he tried to hook a bouncer from Cummins but ended up offering a simple catch to David Warner in the covers.
Pujara, coming into the match on the back of an epic 202-run knock in the drawn Ranchi Test, and Rahane, then, added 49 runs for the second wicket and took India to tea in a dominant position. But it quickly turned sour for the hosts, as Pujara fell to Lyon right after tea.
It seemed to create a domino effect as Karun Nair (5) was the next man to take the lonely walk back to the pavilion.
Ashwin and Rahane put on 49 runs for the fifth wicket and it seemed India had averted the danger and were back on track.
However, Lyon had other ideas as he first got rid of India’s stand-in captain Rahane and then sent Ashwin packing with another leg-before-wicket decision going his way.
Jadeja and Saha took the attack to the Australian bowlers with some lusty blows. Australia captain Steve Smith took the smart decision to take the new ball, seeing that his spinners were leaking too many runs.
That decision almost paid instant dividends as Cummins came into attack and caused a few problems with his extra pace. India were lucky not to lose more wickets with Matt Renshaw dropping an easy catch at first slip off the bowling of Cummins to give Saha a reprieve.
With the series tied 1-1 going into the finale, top-ranked India must win the match to regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Australia, who triumphed at home in 2014-15, need just a draw to retain the trophy.