Wed, 20 Mar 2019

Nathan Lyon leaves India five down and sinking

ESPNCricInfo
17 Dec 2018, 20:42 GMT+10

3:00 AM ET

India 283 and 5 for 112 (Rahane 30, Hazlewood 2-24, Lyon 2-30) need a further 175 to beat Australia 326 and 243 (Khawaja 72, Shami 6-56)

Nathan Lyon followed his five-wicket haul in the first innings with the crafty dismissal of Virat Kohli to set Australia up for a series-levelling victory at the new Perth Stadium. Ajinkya Rahane swung for the hills but history, the challenging pitch and India's dinosaur tail were all stacked up against them. Since the start of 2014, only six teams have chased 200 or more in 124 attempts and overall only twice have India chased 287, which Australia had set them here, or more in Test cricket. The visitors were five down and sinking at stumps on day four.

India would have been facing a taller chase had Mohammed Shami not flicked on his second-innings switch after lunch. After India had gone wicketless in the morning, Shami exploited the wild variations in bounce to collect four wickets in five overs and ended with career-best returns of 6 for 56. While prancing deliveries had both the overnight batsmen Tim Paine and Usman Khawaja fending behind, a shooter from a shortish length crashed into the base of Pat Cummins' stumps. Yet, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood swung their bats and ran up 36 together in 39 balls for the last wicket to stretch Australia's lead closer to 300.

Starc and Hazlewood then swung the new ball to leave India two down within four overs of their improbable chase. After spearing his first three balls across KL Rahul's off stump, Starc brought one back in, tricking him to chop it back onto his stumps for a duck. Hazlewood then caused one to kick off a back of a length and removed Adelaide hero Cheteshwar Pujara for 4.

M Vijay, who is more or less in the same boat as Rahul, then combined with Kohli to briefly steady the shaky innings with a 35-run partnership for the third wicket. Pat Cummins resumed his mouth-watering battle with Kohli and kept threatening the India captain's outside edge and Vijay's body, but the they somehow survived that spell. It was Lyon who dismissed both Kohli and Vijay off successive overs. After attacking Kohli's stumps with his first seven balls to him, he shifted his line wider and found drift to draw the outside edge, which was pouched at slip.

The celebration from Paine behind the stumps was rather subdued, given they had fired verbal volleys at each other in the morning. When Paine had been dismissed, Kohli chattered away, making his counterpart turn around for a reply.

Paine even had a go at Vijay after Lyon got one to break out of the footmarks and through the gate. Rahane came out swinging, again, and fell swinging Hazlewood to point for 30 for 47 balls. Vihari and Risbah Pant then resisted Australia's push for victory, forcing the match into the final day. But considering India's feeble lower order and recent fourth-innings trends, Australia are well poised to wrap up things on the fifth morning.

While Lyon, indeed, proved the difference between the two sides, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav were wearing bibs and supplying drinks in the first session of the day. There was no joy for the India seamers until the post-lunch session. Paine and Khawaja countered everything India threw at them in an attritional first session, which yielded only 58 runs in 30 overs. Paine struck the only three boundaries in the session, including a cracking square-cut off Shami.

Several balls whizzed past the outside edge - and occasionally their throats - but Paine and Khawaja were largely unperturbed. Once India turned to the part-time offspin of Vihari, they tapped the ball into the gaps with more comfort. Umesh Yadav, too, leaked runs, conceding 61 runs in his 14 overs.

After struggling in his first three innings this series, Khawaja brought up his fifty and took Australia's lead past 200 with one shot: a neat back-foot clip through midwicket.

Shami then produced a lethal four-over burst, but Lyon and Australia would have the final say again.

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