Offie Nathan excels with 8-64 as Australia bowl out India for 163; visitors need 76 for victory
Nathan Lyon (extreme right) celebrates the wicket of India’s R Ashwin with his Australian teammates at Indore yesterday. Pic/PTI
Two great competitors who embody the spirit of Test cricket held centrestage on another wicket-filled day at the Holkar Stadium. With an appropriate surname, Nathan Lyon stole a march over old foe Cheteshwar Pujara largely because his eight for 64 put Australia on course for a famous victory after Thursday’s Day Two of the third Test, poised for the earliest finish of the series.
Once the dust settled after the heavy artillery fell silent, Australia were left needing 76 for victory when they kick off their chase on the third morning. As many as 16 wickets fell as the ball again held sway, spitting and turning and scooting through and making batting a vocation as much of fortune as skill.
Pujara’s stoic 59, compiled in typically unfussed fashion even as his partners deserted him with alarming regularity, has given R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja something to bowl with, but it will take a miracle for India to defend their modest target and seal their place in the final of the World Test Championship on the morrow.
Lyon is a phenomenal off-spinner, as he needs to be to play 118 Tests and take nearly 480 wickets for Australia. On a surface that had everything a tweaker can dream of, he feasted on India’s hesitancy with deliveries that turned as well as those that skidded through, showing how much Australia had missed him in Nagpur when he had a rare off-day.
India missed a trick when Australia started the day on 156 for four, 47 ahead, by keeping Ashwin off the attack for 55 minutes. By then, Peter Handscomb and Cameron Green had extended the lead untroubled, but once Ashwin and Umesh Yadav, using reverse to devastating effect, operated in tandem, the end came dramatically swiftly. Australia lost six for 11 in 34 deliveries and had to be satisfied with a lead of 88 when they looked good for many more.
India’s second innings was only a slight improvement on their first, thanks to the industry and indefatigable resistance of Pujara and Shreyas Iyer’s brief enterprise, before both batsmen were dismissed by exceptional catches by Steven Smith and Usman Khawaja respectively. In a reprisal of the first essay, several batsmen were culpable of questionable shot selection on a surface that has rightly attracted widespread censure. Pujara showed that while one couldn’t ever feel ‘in’, mind over matter wasn’t impossible. Sadly for India, few were willing to emulate him.
Lyon shouldered the Australian attack with aplomb, carrying Todd Murphy and Matt Kuhnemann in his wake, though he might still be wary of another twist in a gripping game influenced beyond the acceptable by a track of the most dubious nature.
No. of wickets taken by Nathan Lyon in Test matches against India, the most by a bowler in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy
India 109 & 163 (C Pujara 59; N Lyon 8-64) v Australia 197 (U Khawaja 60, M Labuschagne 31; R Jadeja 4-78, R Ashwin 3-44)