India batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli yesterday struck inspired centuries during a record fourth-wicket partnership at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to help India claw their way back into the third Test against Australia on day three.
The pair united with India vulnerable at 147-3 in the morning session and were finally separated at 409-4 after tea, having creamed 262 runs off Australia’s hapless bowlers before spinner Nathan Lyon had Rahane trapped LBW for 147.
Kohli, enjoying an outstanding series with three centuries, pushed on to 169 before he was dismissed courtesy of wicketkeeper Brad Haddin’s second brilliant catch of the day.
His wicket brought stumps, with Mohammed Shami nine not out and India having reached 462-8, trailing Australia’s mammoth first innings total of 530 by 68 runs with two wickets in hand.
Kohli lost three batting partners in quick succession, with debutant Lokesh Rahul holing out for three, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni making 11 runs and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed for a duck.
Although Australia fought back admirably late on in the session, they had little answer to the brilliance of Kohli and Rahane for more than four hours, the pair lashing 39 boundaries between them on a warm, sunny day.
Australia’s main strike bowler Mitchell Johnson came in for some special punishment, leaching 27 runs in two overs after tea as his short-pitched assault was dismissed with arrogance.
Kohli pulled Johnson to the fence three times in one of the overs to have the large Indian contingent in the crowd of 42,000 roaring their approval.
The International Cricket Council Cricketer of the Year ultimately had Kohli caught behind, but he ended the day with ugly figures of 1-133.
Australia had earlier taken two wickets in the first hour, but would rue two dropped catches in the middle session that could have ended Kohli and Rahane’s stand much earlier.
Lyon contrived to spill the simplest of catches off his own bowling to reprieve Rahane on 70, while Watson grounded a sharp chance at first slip to grant Kohli a life before tea.
It took umpire Kumar Dharmasena’s intervention to split the pair, the Sri Lankan raising his finger for LBW when Rahane missed a sweep, though replays suggested the middle order batsman might have been hard done by.
Rahul lasted a flighty eight balls, dropped on the seventh by substitute fielder Peter Siddle at midwicket after an unsightly slog, only to be caught on the next Lyon delivery at backward square leg by Josh Hazlewood courtesy of another appalling stroke.
Dhoni survived for a streaky 11 before feathering an edge off Ryan Harris through to Haddin, and the bulky paceman caught Ashwin off his own bowling soon after.
Haddin earlier notched his 250th dismissal with a brilliant diving catch to remove Pujara for 25 on the second ball of the day, having dropped him on 12 late on day two.
Australia lead the four-match series 2-0 after wins in Adelaide and Brisbane, and can seal it in Melbourne with a draw.
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