Australia battled through an onslaught from India’s fiery fast bowlers on the third day of the second Test, building an ominous 175-run lead with six wickets in hand on a menacing Perth Stadium pitch that is expected to deteriorate further.
The hosts reached stumps at 132 for four in their second innings on Sunday with Usman Khawaja 41 not out and captain Tim Paine unbeaten on eight.
Australia, desperate to level the series after narrowly losing the opener in Adelaide, could be without the services of opener Aaron Finch, who retired hurt on the stroke of tea with a possible fractured right index finger.
Under overcast skies, Australia’s batsmen faced torrid bowling from India’s fired-up quicks with Finch, who was unbeaten on 25, forced off after being hit by a searing delivery from Mohammed Shami.
Marcus Harris, Finch’s opening partner, had earlier been hit on the helmet attempting to evade a sharp bouncer from paceman Jasprit Bumrah, who bowled superbly in favourable conditions.
A bewildered Harris fell after the tea break, clean bowled by Bumrah for 20 after not offering a shot, and locally-bred Shaun Marsh was caught behind for five while rashly attempting a pull shot off Shami.
Australia’s inexperienced batting-order struggled under pressure with Peter Handscomb making an unconvincing 13 before being trapped leg-before after shuffling across his stumps to Ishant Sharma, who bowled without luck initially.
Travis Head was dismissed before the close for 19 after needlessly guiding a wide Shami delivery to third man, in a mirror-image of his first innings dismissal.
Khawaja, Australia’s most accomplished batsman, survived several nerve-jangling moments to compile his highest score in the series.
Australia’s impulsive batting almost squandered their advantage after bowling out India for 283 to gain a handy first innings lead of 43 runs, despite a brilliant century from India captain Virat Kohli.
An enthralling morning session belonged to the peerless Kohli, whose 123 came to an end at the stroke of lunch when he edged Pat Cummins to a forward-diving Handscomb at second slip.
Whether Handscomb got his fingers under the ball will be a matter of debate for days to come but the on-field official’s soft signal was out and the third umpire did not reverse the decision on review.
Kohli had reached his 25th century in style with a flowing off-drive to the boundary and then placed his helmet on the ground, pointed to his bat and made a yapping gesture with his gloved hand.
It was his sixth century in Australia, which matches the tally of the great Sachin Tendulkar, and ended a drought against Australia with just 83 runs in his past seven Test innings against them.
Kohli showed no lasting ill-effects from an earlier injury scare when he was struck on the forearm by a searing Mitchell Starc bouncer and required treatment.
Spinner Nathan Lyon targeted the pitch’s expansive rough patches and cleaned up the tail to finish with 5-67.
We take a look at biggest stats from the third day of the second Australia-India Test in Perth:
— This was eighth time that Nathan Lyon dismissed Ajinkya Rahane in Tests — the most number of times he has dismissed a batsman alongside Cheteshwar Pujara and Alastair Cook.
— Virat Kohli completed his 25th Test ton in 127 innings and became the second fastest to do so. Only Don Bradman (68) achieved the feat in fewer innings than him.
— This was Kohli's fourth century as a captain in Australia in Tests which is the joint most by any visiting captain in Australia alongside Clive Lloyd.
— This was Kohli's eighth century in international cricket in Australia which is the second most by a visiting batsman in Australia in international cricket. Only Jack Hobbs is ahead of him in that list with nine tons.
— Kohli completed his century in 214 balls on Day 3, which is his second slowest Test century. His slowest came off 289 balls against England at Nagpur in 2012.
— This was Kohli's 12th century against Australia in international cricket — the joint second most by any player. Tendulkar (20) holds the record of hitting most tons in international cricket against Australia.
— Only Ricky Ponting (41) has now hit more centuries as a captain in international cricket than Kohli (34).
— This was Kohli's 11th hundred in international cricket in 2018 which is the joint second most for a player in a calendar year in international cricket.
— Kohli became the fastest to score 5,000 Test runs batting at No 4 (in 86 innings), eclipsing Jacques Kallis' record, who achieved the feat in 87 innings. He also became the fastest to score 7,000 runs batting at No 4 in international cricket (in 133 innings) during his knock of 123 runs, beating Tendulkar (146 innings).
— Nathan Lyon has now taken seven five-fors against India in Tests — the joint most by any bowler alongside Muttiah Muralitharan. He has taken a five-for in four of his last five Tests against India. He also has 77 Test wickets to his name against India, which is the fourth most by any bowler.
— India have dropped five catches so far in the series while Australia have dropped only one catch.
— Mohammed Shami has now taken most wickets (40) for India in Tests in 2018, going past Ashwin's tally of 38 wickets.
— Rishabh Pant has now effected 15 dismissals in this Test series so far — the most for an Indian keeper against Australia in a Test series.
With inputs from Reuters