Australia on the ropes as India close in on Melbourne victory

India’s Ravindra Jadeja celebrates after taking the wicket from Matthew Wade of Australia with Ajinkya Rahane during day three of the second test match between Australia and India at The MCG, Melbourne, Australia, December 28, 2020. AAP Image/Scott Barbour via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. AUSTRALIA OUT. NEW ZEALAND OUT

(Reuters) – A depleted Indian attack shrugged off an injury to paceman Umesh Yadav to rout Australia’s batsmen and give themselves a platform for a series-levelling victory on day three of the second test on Monday.

With Umesh lost to a calf strain after lunch, spin-bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja chipped in two wickets and seamers Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj took one apiece to leave Australia 133 for six at stumps, clinging to a lead of two runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Raw all-rounder Cameron Green, 17 not out, and tailender Pat Cummins, on 15, dug in to ensure India will bat again but Australia face a massive task to set them a proper chase.

Rejuvenated after the three-day humiliation in the series-opener, India’s batsmen are highly unlikely to produce another Adelaide-style horror show where they dismissed for 36, their lowest ever test innings total.

Australia chased 90 for victory to win that test in three days, but their batsmen have failed to surpass 200 in their other three innings of the series.

Alarmingly for the hosts, star batsman Steve Smith’s form woes have been starkly exposed, with Bumrah bowling him around his legs for eight on Monday shortly after the teabreak.

Smith, who nursed a back injury in the leadup to Adelaide, is yet to reach double-figures, with scores of one and one not out in Adelaide, and a duck in the first innings in Melbourne, his worst run of test scores.

Replacement opener Matthew Wade, who managed a 137-ball 40, had no complaints about the MCG pitch.

“It did more, probably, in the first innings,” the lefthander told reporters.

“Disappointing outs, myself included.”

India, anchored by stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane’s inspirational century on day two, were bowled out for 326 before lunch in reply to Australia’s first innings 195.

With Smith and Wade at the crease, Australia had resumed at 65 for two after tea, still hopeful of mowing down a 66-run deficit and setting India a task for victory.

Yet Bumrah nipped their 29-run partnership in the bud by bowling Smith, and Wade was soon out lbw by Jadeja.

His wicket triggered a collapse with Travis Head (17) and Tim Paine (1) falling in successive overs, the former nicking Siraj to the slips and the latter caught behind.

Captain Paine’s dismissal after a review by India was contentious, with no nick detected by the “Hot Spot” technology and faint evidence of a sound picked up by “Snicko”.

Number three batsman Cheteshwar Pujara had survived a similar review during India’s innings.


Rahane paid tribute to his bowlers but said there was work still to be done.

“The bowlers bowled really well and bowled in the right areas,” he told broadcasters.

“We still got four wickets to go, the game is not over yet.”

Cummins and Green were lucky to bat out the day, with the paceman dropped on 11 by recalled wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant after nicking spinner Ravichandran Ashwin behind the wicket.

Australia have a litany of problems to confront.

After a first innings duck, Joe Burns’ place is in jeopardy after another cheap dismissal, the opener caught behind for four off Umesh and then burning a review before departing.

Marnus Labuschagne (28), who made 48 in the first innings, made another bright start but was outpointed by Ashwin.

Earlier, Rahane’s captain’s knock ended when Jadeja ran him out for 112 on a risky single.

It was a deflating end to an inspired innings but Rahane is unlikely to hold a grudge given Jadeja’s wickets exposed Australia’s tail.