Second Test: Patel, Ashwin save India the blushes

- February 18, 2023
| By : Khurram Habib |

The duo adds 114 for the eighth wicket on Day Two amid Nathan Lyon’s fifer, but fails to help India take lead as Australia respond in aggressive manner in second innings. Patel feels 250-run target is achievable for India

Over Mid-Wicket: India’s Axar Patel plays a shot during the second day of the second Test match in the series between India and Australia at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds of Arun Jaitley Stadium on Saturday

Axar Patel and R Ashwin saved India the embarrassment but their 114-run eighth wicket partnership could not put enough pressure on Australia, who ended the second day’s play with an upper hand in the second Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds of the Arun Jaitley Stadium.

The visitors were 61/1 at stumps, 62 runs ahead of India thanks to a solitary one run lead in first innings.

India had started the day well with the overnight openers continuing their partnership and ensuring no casualty in the first half hour. But then Nathan Lyon, the veteran off-spinner who had been struggling in recent times against India, spun a web in which the Indian batsmen were caught.

Lyon dismissed KL Rahul (17) leg-before and then had Rohit Sharma (32) bowled as the India skipper closed the face of the bat to miss the line.  Soon after that, Lyon spoiled Cheteshwar Pujara’s 100th Test by having him leg-before for zero, and then Peter Handscomb at forward short leg held onto a catch on quick reflex to send Shreyas Iyer (4) back. India were 66/4 in just the 26th over and faced a big first-innings deficit.

“This surface has more bounce than in Nagpur so it was a bit helpful,” said Lyon to the media after the end of day’s play. He had taken nine wickets when he last played here back in 2013. He is used to a bit more bounce due to the over-spin he imparts.

After he had scalped the top four, India managed to resurrect through local boy and former captain Virat Kohli (44) and Ravindra Jadeja (26). The duo added 59 for the fifth wicket before three quick wickets spelt doom for India. Jadeja fell leg-before to Todd Murphy and then Kohli got out the same way to Matthew Kuhnemann in what was a very close call.

Then wicketkeeper-batsman KS Bharat (6) was dismissed by Lyon, caught by slip-fielder off a top edge on sweep, as the veteran Aussie completed his fifer (5/67).

India stared down the barrel as these three wickets in the space of four overs or 24 balls reduced them to 139/7, still 124 runs adrift.

But as has happened in recent past, including in the first Test at Nagpur, the tail came to the rescue as the ball got a bit softer. Lyon himself pointed out later that the ball stops assisting as much after around 50 overs as it tends to go soft.

Ashwin and Patel, who made 84 in the first Test, were parts of the tail that got together to defy Australia. While left-hander Patel was aggressive and started playing shots, hitting three sixes and nine fours, Ashwin was cautious.

“When you yourself are a spinner, you know what to expect from the spinners you are facing. It is like if the spinner bowls too many deliveries at one spot, the batsman gets a hang of it,” said Patel after the end of day’s play.

Patel, who finished with 74 and was dismissed off an impressive catch by Pat Cummins, had completed his half-century off 94 deliveries with two sixes and six fours. Ashwin made 37 before being caught by Matt Renshaw, who has come in as concussion substitute of David Warner. The two defied Australia for over two hours but fell in a space of 10 balls.

“I think we should be okay with a target of about 220 to 250. That is gettable. But we need to bowl well and keep it tight for Australian batsmen to score,” said Patel.

But with Australia going at over five an over, third day could be challenging for India.