IND vs AUS: A Virat Kohli classic in Perth
Indian skipper's fine unbeaten 82 and Ajinkya Rahane's half century leave Test evenly poised
For nearly an hour in the second session on Day Two, the crowd at the Optus Stadium here were treated to one of the great contests of the modern era. At one end was Pat Cummins.
At the other was Virat Kohli. The Indian captain had just stroked three boundaries in one over from Josh Hazlewood. It was counter-attacking cricket at its best. Kohli had struck four boundaries in space of nine balls after walking into the middle at 8-2 and was looking in ominous form.
The Australians needed to halt his progress and it was left to Cummins. By the time Cummins finished his spell, his figures read 6-2-6-0. Kohli didn't score off him for 16 balls. He was beaten four times and a couple of edges just fell short of the slips cordon.
On another day, Cummins could well have decimated a top order, but on Saturday, it was the genius of Kohli that prevented him from running through the Indian line-up. Despite getting beaten, Kohli was unfazed and found a way to survive by trusting his defence and not pushing hard at the ball. It eventually helped Kohli win the minor battle. At stumps, India were 172-3, cutting the deficit to 154 runs with seven wickets in hand. While it was Kohli (82 not out) and Ajinkya Rahane (51 not out) starring with the bat, Ishant Sharma ensured the Australian tail didn't wag by finishing with figures of 20.3-7-41-4 to restrict the hosts to 326.
Alongside Kohli was the ever-reliable Cheteshwar Pujara (24). The pair rescued India by adding 74 runs for the third wicket. Such was the defiance of the two batsmen that Australia had to revert bowling short on a pitch that was aiding seam movement. It worked, as Pujara gloved one down the leg-side, but in many ways, he ensured that India was not blown apart by the Australian bowling unit.
However, it was the counterattack of Rahane at 82-3 that changed the course of Day Two. The Mumbai batsman shrugged the short ball theory by hooking and cutting courageously as he raced to 23 from 22 balls with two fours and a six.
Rahane's aggression seemed to rub off on Kohli as the pair started to looked comfortable on a pitch that seemed treacherous for a day and a half. Kohli brought up his half-century, his first against Australia in nine innings, with a sublime uppercut. Rahane played some immaculate drives to record his fifty from 92 balls.
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Virat Kohli's gesture towards Steve Smith wins hearts during IND vs AUS