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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 record lowest 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.
2nd Test: Steve Smith’s horror run continues against India
Steve Smith’s run of low scores continued when he was clean bowled by a Jasprit Bumrah delivery for 8 in the third session of Day 3 in the Boxing Day Test. (Getty Images)
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 Umesh Yadav (1/5) opened him up with one that swung away very late.
Another productive day for India. To keep the scoring rate of the Aussies around 2 on a good batting surface reflec… https://t.co/G6L44SVYsT
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) 1609139346000
Introduced early into the attack, seasoned off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (1/46) once again showed his class when he bamboozled Marnus Labuschagne (28 off 49 balls) with a slider that went straight with the angle.
Ashwin let one slid 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 point in time, the hosts trailed India by 66 runs.
It’s not just the 6 wickets that India’s taken but also, the economy. Australia going at 2rpo after 55 overs has fu… https://t.co/NezLz0IO3G
— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) 1609136139000
More miseries awaited Australia in the final session when they lost four wickets for the addition of 68 runs, as India closed in on 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 Jasprit Bumrah (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 Ravindra Jadeja (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.
A fantastic day’s play ends at the MCG with India in the driver’s seat. An Indian win looks imminent. Hopefully we… https://t.co/ejA4VtmPWD
— ದೊಡ್ಡ ಗಣೇಶ್ | Dodda Ganesh (@doddaganesha) 1609138923000
However, India too have a cause for concern as Umesh hobbled off the field after suffering a calf injury in the innings’ eighth over.
Bowling his fourth over, the pacer had complained of pain in his calf and had been taken for scans after being assessed by the BCCI medical team.
Earlier, riding captain Ajinkya Rahane‘s classy hundred and Ravindra Jadeja’s 15th half-century, India managed enough runs on the board to put Australia under pressure despite losing their five remaining wickets for only 49 runs after resuming the day on 277 for five.
Jadeja (57) added 123 runs for the sixth wicket with skipper Rahane, whose vigil came to an when he was run out, his first in Tests, after making a classy 112 with the help of 12 boundaries in 223 balls.
The call was Jadeja’s and the run out was needless, but nevertheless, the all-rounder looked solid in the middle before he was set up by a Mitchell Starc (3/78 in 26 overs).
The Australian left-arm fast bowler tested Jadeja with a barrage of short balls and the ploy worked as the all-rounder pulled one straight to the deep mid-wicket fielder for a polished 57 that included three boundaries and his trademark sword celebration.
On a Day 3, MCG pitch that hardly contained any demons, the Australian bowlers failed to pose any serious threat to the well-settled Indian batting duo of Rahane and Jadeja.
The hosts desperately needed a wicket and given how Rahane had been batting, it had to be a run out.
Nearing his half-century, Jadeja took off for a needless single after playing it towards short cover and Rahane responded positively instead of sending him back, but narrowly failed to make his ground at the striker’s end despite giving his best shot.
That pegged India back as Australia looked to claw their way back. Nathan Lyon (3/72 in 27.1 overs) and Josh Hazlewood (1/47 in 23 overs) then polished off the tail.