After an uneventful first day which saw runs being scored at a very slow rate and the bowlers toiling hard to extract something out of the surface, Test cricket fans were hoping for a more even contest between bat and ball on day 2. Pujara and Kohli were once again cautious while dealing with the Australian pacers. Pujara got to his 3rd overseas century this year minutes before lunch.
Post lunch, Starc finally dismissed Virat Kohli and soon Pujara also walked back to the pavilion after being cleaned up by Cummins. Rahane played with a positive intent with Rohit Sharma playing an uncharacteristic anchor role at the other end. Nathan Lyon dismissed Rahane for the 8th time after tea by trapping him in front of the stumps.
Pant and Rohit started to accelerate in the final few overs of the day and Kohli declared with 443 runs on board. Australia survived 6 testing overs from Indian bowlers and were 8-0 at the end of the day.
Here's a look at five talking points from Day 2
#1 India’s conservative approach
On a track without any demons on it, India’s scoring rate raised many eyebrows. At the end of day 1, Kohli and Pujara had played all the bowlers and looked very settled in the middle.
But during the morning session, both of them did not show any signs of aggression and it looked like the plan was to tire the Aussie bowlers rather than frustrate them with boundaries. Probably, the surprise of the day was the manner in which Rishabh Pant’s approach in his innings of 39.
Pant’s natural instinct is to attack regardless of the pitch, opposition or the match situation but he rarely took any risk against the tiring Australian bowlers on a flat deck. Then just when it looked like India were starting to be more positive, Kohli declared with a plan to give the Aussie openers a few tricky overs before the end of the day’s play. Overall, this was a strange first innings from India and only time will tell whether Kohli got it right with his declaration.
#2 The pitch showing signs of life
For the majority of this match, the pitch factor has been quite non-existent. The pitch has neither assisted the seamers nor the spinners and there is still no cracks or rough to worry the batting team.
But during the final two sessions of play, the pitch did show signs of uneven bounce especially when the bowlers hit the deck hard. A few deliveries of Nathan Lyon too spun into the right-handers but the turn was not alarming by any means. The best bowler on this pitch was undoubtedly Pat Cummins and he gave an indication of the line and length to bowl on this pitch. He just kept bowling in the good length area and bowled a stump to stump line. He also made good use of the bouncer throughout his spell.
During the Australian innings, the wicket looked lively and the carry was decent too. With hot conditions predicted for the next few days, there is a good chance that this pitch will open up tomorrow.
#3 Rohit Sharma back among the runs
This year did not begin well for Rohit Sharma as he struggled in South Africa against world-class pacers and his place in the test team faced a lot of criticism. He was dropped for the test series against England but inconsistent performances from India’s lower middle order resulted in him getting another opportunity in this series.
Rohit Sharma was under a lot of pressure to justify his selection and by the end of today’s play, he has answered many questions. The best part of his half-century today was the manner in which he applied himself and gave respect to the opposition bowlers during the initial stages of his innings.
As usual, he played a few brilliant shots during his innings but the most satisfying aspect of his innings was the temperament he showed. All said and done, this was still a subcontinent like pitch and a similar knock in the second innings when the pitch opens up will silence all his critics.
#4 Tim Paine’s captaincy
The most underappreciated part of this test match so far has been the role of Tim Paine in restricting the run flow of Indian batsmen. During the first two sessions of this test match, he was more aggressive with his field placements and wanted to force a mistake from the Indian batsman.
But once he read the pitch, he understood that he can’t blindly attack and let India run away with the match. His field placements were spot on during the second day of the match.
He specifically chose to be a bit conservative against Virat Kohli as he knew that on a flat deck the Indian skipper can counter-attack and take the match away from Australia. He also rotated the bowlers in an effective manner and was ably supported by a disciplined bowling performance from the Aussie bowlers.
On paper, Paine’s captaincy in this test match might not look impressive but his tactics meant that the runs never flowed freely in the Indian innings.
#5 Jasprit Bumrah’s spell late in the day
Without any doubt, Jasprit Bumrah has been the standout pacer in this tour with his pace and bounce. For a brief period at the end of the day, Bumrah made this dull MCG pitch look like a lively Perth wicket with some good old-fashioned seam bowling.
During his three-over spell, the way he made the ball zip off this slow surface was quite commendable.
Right from the first ball of his spell, he made life difficult for the Aussie openers by getting the ball to skid from short of good length. The pitch also played a few tricks as some balls just kept low after pitching and Bumrah’s express pace meant that the Batmen could not easily adjust to the lack of bounce. In his second over, he struck Marcus Harris on the helmet with a mean bouncer and with some luck could have easily had a wicket to his name.