Lyon devours Indian batting line-up, Australia sniff rare win

INDORE, Mar 2:
India were staring at a rare defeat at home despite Cheteshwar Pujara’s plucky half-century as veteran Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon flattened the hosts with his eight-wicket haul on day two of the third Test today.
India did well to end Australia’s first innings at 197, conceding a 88-run first innings lead after Steve Smith’s side began at 156 for 4 but negotiating quality spin in favourable conditions remained a challenge for them.
The hosts were bowled out for 163 in their second innings, which means that Australia need just 76 runs to cherish a rare Test win in India, who have lost only two Tests at home in the last 10 years.
India have lost to only England (February 2021) and Australia (February 2017) in the past decade and both were crushing defeats.
Australia had won by a massive 333-run margin in Pune while England had hammered India by 227 runs in Chennai.
Australia bring the best out of Pujara (59 off 142) and that was on full display at the Holkar Stadium but he did not get the support that was needed from the other batters as India came up with another underwhelming batting performance on a rank turner.
India were in the game as long as Pujara was there but a sensational catch from Steve Smith at leg-slip towards close of play put the visitors on cusp of a memorable victory.
Lyon ended with remarkable figures of eight for 64 in 23.3 overs. Siraj getting bowled while attempting a wild slog brought stumps on day four with India’s innings lasting 60.3 overs.
Besides being impressive with the ball, the Australians were brilliant in the field, especially with the momentum-changing catches of Pujara and Sheryas Iyer (26 off 27).
The shot selection of Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli left a lot to be desired as Lyon bossed over the home team.
After being reduced to 79 for four at tea, Pujara and Iyer’s counter attacking 35-run stand raised hopes of a fighting seconds innings lead but a flying Usman Khawaja took a stunning catch at mid-wicket to send back the latter.
Iyer went for horizontal shots against spinners, especially Kuhnemann, and executed them well until a moment of brilliance from Khawaja got the better of him.
Gill (5), coming into the side in place of K L Rahul, suffered his second failure of the game after getting beaten in the flight by Lyon. He went for an ugly hoick but ended up getting castled.
Lyon also got rid of India skipper Rohit (12), who was trapped in front after misjudging the length of the ball.
Kohli’s (13) was adjudged LBW after attempting a pull off left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann on a track offering spin and uneven bounce.
Pujara looked the most solid of the Indian batters. He used his feet brilliantly. Pujara hit the first boundary of the innings, a cover drive, by stepping out to Lyon.
He mostly played on the front foot but stayed back to put a short ball from Kuhnemann between the mid-on and mid-wicket fielder. Four balls later, he came down the track for a confident straight drive.
He was dropped on 50, a tough chance at cover, before coming up with the shot of the innings. Ishan Kishan came out with a message towards close of play. The content of that message could not be confirmed but what followed was a massive six over mid-wicket as Pujara stepped out to a rampaging Lyon.
In the morning session, the pace-spin combination of Umesh Yadav and R Ashwin ran through the Australian batting line-up.
After a rather quiet first hour, when only 30 runs were scored in 16 overs without any wicket, India lost their last six wickets for just 11 runs after starting the day at 156 for four. (PTI)