Ever-improving and ever-adapting Jasprit Bumrah sent shivers down the spine of Australian batsmen as India demolished the home side on the third day of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne on Friday. Pat Cummins then did well to diminish India's dominance with a late flurry of wickets, but the hosts will require nothing less than a miracle to stop India from taking a 2-1 series lead.
Bumrah returned figures of 6 for 33 and found very good support from other bowlers as Australia were bundled out for 151 in 66.5 overs in reply to India's 443 for 7. Despite taking a huge lead of 298 runs, India decided not to enforce the follow-on. That's when Cummins took over and wreaked havoc in the Indian batting order. The 25-year-old took 4 for 10 as India slumped to 54 for 5 in 27 overs in their second essay. Despite all the Cummins' hardships, India stretched their lead to 346 runs, with Mayank Agarwal and Rishabh Pant batting on 28 and 6 respectively.
Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal stepped out with the liberty of playing the positive brand of cricket and were successfully able to see off the first 10 overs, scoring 24 runs. Things finally began to happen when Cummins came to bowl and sent Vihari back for 13 with a brilliant bouncer. The right-arm pacer then dismissed India's first innings heroes Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli for duck in an identical fashion. There was a funky short square leg at place and both Pujara and Kohli ended up playing straight into the hands of the fielder. Which meant, Cummins has now dismissed Kohli once in each of the four Tests the two have played against each other.
Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane was the next one to go, trying to pull Cummins only to end up gloving it to the wicket-keeper. Rohit Sharma (5) managed to survive for 18 deliveries before edging one to the first slip, becoming Josh Hazlewood's first victim. Amidst all the chaos, Agarwal kept one side intact and managed a couple of boundaries to push India's lead closer to the 350-run mark.
Earlier, Australian top-order once again collapsed as the Melbourne surface started to show signs of wear and tear. None of the Australian batsmen could muster more than 22 runs as Bumrah and Co. ran through their batting order. In the process, Bumrah became the first Asian bowler to take a five-fer in each of South Africa, England and Australia in the same calendar year (5 for 54 in Johannesburg, 5 for 85 in Trent Bridge and 6 for 33 in Melbourne). The 25-year-old now has 45 Test wickets in his debut year, going past the previous record of 42 by Terry Alderman (1981) and Curtly Ambrose (1988).
Australia commenced the middle day of the Test with eight runs on the board after surviving six nervy overs on Thursday. Aaron Finch crafted a solid drive to start the proceedings but the Australian limited-overs skipper soon then chipped an Ishant Sharma delivery to debutant Agarwal at short mid-wicket, who took a difficult diving catch to his left. All Finch could manage was eight runs. Before the dust had settled, Marcus Harris inexplicably attempted a hook shot off a Bumrah bouncer but ended up top-edging it to Ishant at fine leg. The left-hander scored 22 but couldn't convert it into something substantial.
Coming in at No. 3, Usman Khawaja (21) hit a boundary each off Ishant (1 for 41), Mohammed Shami (1 for 27) and Ravindra Jadeja (2 for 45) and looked in decent touch during his 32-ball stay. Khawaja, however, fell to Jadeja while going for a forward defense, only to end up inside edging it to Agarwal at forward short leg. While Jadeja was finding enough purchase off the surface, it was Bumrah who outfoxed Shaun Marsh (19) with a superb dipping slower delivery yorker, pinning him right in front of the stumps, just before lunch.
The afternoon didn't get any better for the hosts with Travis Head's (20) stumps knocked over by a swinging and quick Bumrah delivery four overs into the session. Mitchell Marsh then tickled a delivery from Jadeja to Ajinkya Rahane at slip when he was on nine and Pat Cummins (17) departed shortly before tea, leaving Australia's fate in the hands of skipper Tim Paine.
Paine managed to survive 85 balls and scored 22 before becoming Bumrah's fourth victim. The right-arm paceman then sent back Nathan Lyon and Hazlewood in a matter of minutes to bring an end to Australia's innings.
On Day 2, Pujara (106) brought up his second century of the series and added 170 runs with Kohli for the third wicket. Agarwal (76) and Rohit(63) crafted pivotal fifties, while Rahane (34) and Pant (39) too chipped in with handy cameos to propel India to a massive first innings total, which can eventually turn out to be a match-winning one.
First Published: December 28, 2018, 12:51 PM IST