MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A rejuvenated India shorn of Virat Kohli turned the tables on Australia to claim the second test within four days in Melbourne on Tuesday, a rousing eight-wicket victory that breathed life into the series.
Needing only 70 runs for victory after bowling Australia out for 200 by lunch, opener Shubman Gill (35 not out) and stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane (27 not out) guided India home in a blaze of shot-making to square the series 1-1 ahead of the third test.
Having bowled India out for 36 in the crushing eight-wicket win in Adelaide, Australia’s pacemen steamed in with their usual vigour but were repelled by a belligerent Gill, who enjoyed a fine test debut.
The match belonged to Rahane, however, who took over the captaincy after the wreckage in Adelaide, with regular skipper Kohli returning to India for the birth of his first child.
Named man of the match, Rahane scored a brilliant 112 in India’s first innings 326 and superbly marshaled a rejigged side featuring four changes from the demoralised Adelaide 11.
Fittingly, he struck the winning run off spinner Nathan Lyon before tea, sending Indian fans into raptures in the sunbathed crowd of 13,021. India finished 70 for two.
“Really proud of all the players, they played really well,” Rahane said at the post-match presentation.
“Coming after Adelaide, the way they showed their characters, that was really important.
“The talk was all about showing that attitude on the field, showing that intent on the field and character, that matters a lot.”
Kohli was delighted with the victory and hailed the performance of stand-in skipper ‘Jinks’.
“What a win this is, absolutely amazing effort by the whole team. Couldn’t be happier for the boys and specially Jinks who led the team to victory amazingly,” he tweeted.
“Onwards and upwards from here.”
Two years after smashing a depleted Australia by 137 runs in the Boxing Day test, India’s bowlers again had the measure of their opponents on the MCG’s drop-in wicket.
The tourists rattled through Australia for 195 in the first innings and restricted them to 200 in the second despite the loss of paceman Umesh Yadav, who managed only a handful of overs before hobbling off with a calf strain early on day three.
Seamer Mohammed Siraj filled the breach superbly, taking 3-37 in the second innings and five wickets overall in a stellar test debut.
Recalled all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja also chipped in with three wickets in the test, with 2-28 in the second innings, after contributing 57 with the bat.
Completing the selectors’ triumph, recalled wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant scored a valuable 29 in partnership with his captain to help lift India out of peril on day two.
Australia’s selectors will be hoping regular opener David Warner is fit to play after Joe Burns’s (0 and 4) twin failures with the bat.
Tailenders Starc (14 not out), Pat Cummins (22) and Hazlewood (10) showed stiffer resistance than a number of their batting team mates to push Australia to 200 for the first time in the series.
Reduced to 99 for six on day three, however, Australia’s faint hopes of setting India a proper chase were snuffed out when young all-rounder Cameron Green heaved at a Siraj short ball and was caught by a leaping Jadeja for 45.
Australia captain Tim Paine pulled no punches in assessing his team’s performance and lamented their poor batting displays.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed, played pretty poor cricket, pretty sloppy cricket for the majority of the test match,” he said.
“You’ve got to give the India attack credit, they bowled beautifully to us.
“As a batting group we are very disappointed with what we’ve put up in the first two test matches.”