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India sink to 189 after Lyon’s rip-roaring eight

Wisden India logo Wisden India 04-03-2017
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In the 60 years since Australia first toured India, some exceptional spinners – Richie Benaud, Ashley Mallett and Shane Warne – have taken five-wicket hauls in India. None, though, had run through a side quite like Nathan Lyon did on the opening day of the second Test at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Having snared Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane in a marathon 16-over spell either side of lunch, he then swept away the last vestiges of Indian resistance with a remarkable second burst that yielded figures of 6.2-1-10-5.

Full scorecard: India vs Australia, 2nd Test

The overall figures of 8 for 50 were the best for a visiting bowler in India – surpassing Lance Klusener’s 8 for 64 at Eden Gardens in 1996 – and only KL Rahul, who was ninth out for 90, made any impression as the hosts subsided to 189 all out. The last six wickets fell for 33, as a team that had topped 600 in their last three innings before this series began, were bowled out for less than 200 in a third straight innings. By stumps, Australia had eased to 40 for 0. India’s day of woe was complete when David Warner, then on 9, was reprieved after he flailed at one from Ishant Sharma. Rahane at third slip dived to his left but couldn’t hold on.

A sizeable holiday crowd had little to cheer about as the afternoon wore on, except for a phase when Karun Nair and Rahul, the two local boys, added 38 in quick time on a surface where the odd ball was already beginning to turn and bounce alarmingly. Karun, whose previous Test innings had yielded 303 against England in Chennai, had batted with composure and poise till then, twice punishing Mitchell Starc when he strayed on to the pads, and cutting Steve O’Keefe for four when given width.

Photos: Cricketers — Then and now

Cricketers: Then and now

But his attempt to give O’Keefe the charge was telegraphed in the extreme. The bowler dropped the ball wider, it evaded Karun’s defensive prod, and Matthew Wade behind the stumps did the rest. Karun’s 26 would turn out to be the second-highest score of the innings.

It was Lyon’s first salvo that had pushed India into the ditch. Abhinav Mukund, who last appeared in a Test in July 2011 – India had played 56 games in the interim – had missed a full toss from Starc to be trapped in front, but Rahul and Pujara had then painstakingly rebuilt the innings in the face of some relentlessly accurate bowling.

But with two minutes to go for the interval, Lyon, in his fourth over, had Pujara in two minds. Having come forward, he then tried to play back, and only succeeding in inside-edging on to the pad. Peter Handscomb at short leg made no mistake.

The scoreboard showed 72 for 2 when Kohli marked his guard after the break. He played two glorious strokes through the covers, off Starc and Lyon, before an error of judgement not dissimilar to the one he made in the second innings in Pune. This time, he left an off break alone, presumably on height, and then compounded his mistake by reviewing the leg-before decision. Long before all the replays had been viewed, Kohli was by the boundary line, waiting to go back in.

Rahane produced another skittish knock, getting to 17 before a Light-Brigade charge at Lyon. Wade didn’t gather cleanly, but Rahane was so far out of his crease that he could pick up the ball and break the stumps. 

Through the carnage, Rahul had shown a mixture of elegance and impetuousness. Having started off by lacing the first ball of the match through cover, he then edged Starc through the vacant third slip as India made a nervous start.

O’Keefe, fresh off his 12 for 70 in Pune, was on as early as the eighth over, and it took Pujara 14 balls to get off the mark as he straightaway settled into a good rhythm. O’Keefe’s first spell of seven overs went for just nine, and the scoreboard kept ticking over only because Rahul played two lovely drives off Josh Hazlewood.

He enjoyed some good fortune too. On 30, he miscued a drive at O’Keefe that Handscomb couldn’t hold on to at short cover. When he had made 61, a full-blooded paddle sweep at Lyon went to Warner at leg slip. He could only deflect it over.

At tea, India were 168 for 5, having added 96 in a frenetic second session. But what followed was a steady procession. In the third over after the interval, Ashwin gloved Lyon to leg slip. That gave Lyon his 54th wicket against India, the most by an Australian – Brett Lee, on commentary duty here, had 53 – and he added four more in quick succession.

Wriddhiman Saha stayed back to a straighter one, and saw Steven Smith juggle the edge at slip before holding on. Ravindra Jadeja got the thinnest of inside edges on to pad, with Smith using the review to overturn the original not-out decision, and Rahul’s 205-ball vigil ended with the ugliest of smears to Matt Renshaw at mid-off.

When Ishant took the bat-pad route to short leg off the first ball he faced, Lyon’s magnum opus was complete. And India, all-conquering world No. 1 side a fortnight ago, were a few steps nearer to the precipice.

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