Chasing the imposing Australian total of 530, India needed a big stand to make a match of it. And after Murali Vijay was dismissed for 68 adding only 13 to his overnight score of 55, Cheteshwar Pujara who never looked comfortable was also dismissed without adding to his overnight score of 25, Team India was staring at trouble at this point. After Rohit Sharma’s poor form, Pujara’s repeated flops at number 3 after getting start is another headache for the team management.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man! Vice-captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane combined brilliantly to produce a magnificent 262 run partnership. It was the highest partnership by an Indian pair in Australia after 10 years. The highest remains with legends Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, who scored 356 against Australia at Adelaide 2004.
The duo of Kohli-Rahane batted magnificently. Though both Kohli and Rahane were dropped by the rather unusually sloppy Aussie fielders, they nevertheless made them pay with their brilliant partnership. Rahane stroked a an aggressive 147 ( 171 balls with 21 fours). He cut, pulled , drove like a player determined to make his mark. He had scored a fine hundred at Lords earlier in the year and in New Zealand and now he has scored at Melbourne’s Boxing Day Test. So Rahane now has three quality hundreds under his belt. A sign that he is ever-improving as a player
Rahane gave apt support to Virat Kohli, who had an interesting battle with Mitchell Johnson right through the day. The duo exchanged words and tried to outwit each other. Though Mitchell Johnson did manage to get Kohli at the very last ball of the Third day, but not before Kohli had powered India’s run chase with his third century of the series and his highest score in Test cricket – a superb 169 ( 272 balls with 18 fours). It was Kohli’s sixth hundred abroad out of his ninth overall and fourth against Australia. Australia it seems brings out the best in Virat Kohli. He returned to the pavilion to a standing ovation at the MCG. Indian batting these days seems to revolve around Virat Kohli. And the young man has really lived up to his billing as the best young batsman in world cricket today.
At 462/8 and 68 runs behind, India would have loved a few more runs to their total. But after Rahane was dismissed given a rather unlucky leg before wicket, Indian batting collapsed with a flurry of wickets. Team India’s strategy surprised many. Plenty has been talked about K L Rahul as a player, given his high scores in the domestic circuit. But in his Test debut, he looked very nervy and played some pre-determined shots. And even after been dropped he played an atrocious shot to give a simple catch to Hazelwood off Nathan Lyon. A shaky 3 runs on debut is not at all a good start. Especially when one is picked ahead of Suresh Raina. Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni too seemed out of sorts and scored a tentative 11 off 23 balls. Ashwin, has flopped not only with the ball, but here too he flopped with the bat.
The lack of application from the likes of KL Rahul, Dhoni and Ashwin after the heroics from Rahane and Kohli managed to somewhat spoil a superb day for India. India lost a chance to put pressure on Australia surely. With two days to go, this Boxing Day Test match is clearly wide open.