Australia v India – Second Test Day 2: Rahane grinds Australia into error

“The Cricketer”
by Kate Birrell


Following their Day 3 debacle in Adelaide, India’s test squad faced a major examination of its character in Melbourne. They not only needed to redeem themselves after producing their country’s lowest ever test innings total, they had to do so with their best batsmen and dominant leader departing the tour. More storied Indian batting lineups than this team have crumbled before lesser challenges on these shores. Many feared this team might be overwhelmed. Clearly, Ajinkya Rahane wasn’t among them.


The absence of an alpha personality like Virat Kohli provides opportunities as well as omissions. Others may find more room to express themselves. Previously unrequired talents might suddenly find demand. More restrained in temperament and manner than his predecessor, Rahane has so far proved a calming influence under pressure. That value was no better demonstrated than today, when the stand-in skipper produced his most significant test batting performance, leaving his side in control of the MCG test after two days. It has been a remarkable turnaround.


Pat Cummins began Day 2 with another superb bowling spell. He had debutant Shubman Gill dropped off an inside edge, before soon after claiming his wicket via the outside edge – Tim Paine making spectacular amends for his earlier miss. Gill had ridden his luck, but also showed plenty to enthuse. In these conditions, against this bowling, 45 was a crucial contribution.


When Cheteshwar Pujara also nicked Cummins behind, leaving India 3-64, there was a danger the visitors might again squander their first day bowling efforts. But it became increasingly apparent as the day progressed that the pendulum of cricket fortune had swung back into balance. Whereas on Day 3 in Adelaide no Indian batsman could play and miss, now they rediscovered that most valuable attribute, availing themselves frequently. Though Australia’s quicks threatened often, they couldn’t quite sustain the precise execution they mastered in Adelaide. Rahane and Hanuma Vihari ground their way to lunch at 3-90.


India continued to mix fortitude with good fortune after lunch. Belatedly introduced, Nathan Lyon found occasional extravagant turn from the well grassed pitch, but India finally brought up their 100 in the 41st over of the innings. It was tough going, but valuable going from the visitors’ point of view.


Attempting to up the ante against Lyon, Vihari watched an attempted sweep loop off his gloves for an easy catch. 4-116, with Vihari’s 21 contributing to a 52 run partnership.


Rishabh Pant came to the crease, and a crucial period in the day’s fortunes commenced. Pant is a cricketer who makes things happen, for better or worse. After a cautions beginning, he soon had the scoreboard ticking over. He also had the effect of releasing pressure on Rahane.


Following the 2018 example of his team mate Pujara, India’s stand-in leader was content to spend a long time building a foundation. He concentrated on soft hands in defence, ensuring the inevitable nicks generally dropped short of catchers. He waited on forcing shots, playing late, careful to not over-play at the expense of control. As Pant started to tick the score over, Rahane began to find his own gaps. Another half-century stand was raised before Pant cut at a Starc delivery which was too close to him and departed. His 29 looks modest, but it changed the game’s momentum significantly.


Ravi Jadeja joined Rahane. Showers arrived, not allowing the final over before tea to be completed. At 5-189, India only trailed by 5.


After a slightly prolonged break, India’s scoring tempo perceptibly quickened. Their second 100 occupied only 26 overs. They were now building a lead. Jadeja was content to play support to his skipper, who was increasingly prepared to take the game to the bowlers. A concerned Australia took the second new ball as soon as possible, even though the old ball was still swinging.


When two competent batsmen are set, a new ball can sometimes prove a mixed blessing. Australia’s big chance came in Mitch Starc’s first over with it. On 83, Rahane reached for a ball wide of him, but Steve Smith was late to get his hands up at second slip. After that miss, the home team looked increasingly rattled and frustrated. Bowling discipline faltered. Plans appeared to unravel. India made hay, scoring more freely than at any previous time in the match. A square cut saw Rahane bring up his century. For a quietly spoken man, this innings was a very loud statement of intent.


The pitch still provided opportunity. A Starc delivery spat up at Rahane. The ball ballooned off glove and neck to Travis Head, who got hands to the ball diving forward, only to see it spill upon landing. It summed up Australia’s day, being the fifth drop in the innings by my calculation. As Rahane sought attention for the blow, rain brought proceedings to a close. India lead by 82, and are still only 5 down.


India have shown they have no intention of surrendering this series meekly. Recovering from the embarrassment of Adelaide, they have thus far shown superior batting technique on a grassy wicket that has kept the bowlers interested. Australia produced chances, but dropped too many catches to make them count. They now face their own test of character.


Australia’s formidable bowling has largely provided camouflage for the team’s patchy batting. That batting has also hidden behind some extraordinary purple patches of form from Steve Smith. Now Smith looks to be in the doldrums. His sluggish catching reflexes seem of a piece with his recent meek batting dismissals. With David Warner still absent, Australia’s opening partnership is a contrivance of selection in defiance of form and precedence. Marnus Labuschagne has burnt through a lot of good fortune to make a brace of 40’s. Whenever India can be prised out, Australia’s batting will need to improve a lot to stay in this match.


Stumps Day 2:

Australia 195, India 5-277 (Rahane 104*, Jadeja 40*)



For more from John, click HERE.






To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


Do you enjoy the Almanac concept?

And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help things keep ticking over please consider making your own contribution.


Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE.

One-off financial contribution – CLICK HERE.

Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. Bernard Whimpress says

    Admirable report, John, just like we used to get from journalism before the over-reliance on those bloody press conferences.

  2. Thank you, Bernard.

    I’m not in any danger of ever having to sit through one of those pressers. Though they are useful for the teams to reinforce their own agendas. Saves their media minders some time.


  3. Whilst India is clearly on top, it could have been very different had the Aussies held their catches. Full marks to the Indians who successfully negotiated the fearsome four Aussie bowlers.

  4. Absolutely right, Fisho.

    Unless the wicket flattens out, those catches will keep coming. Australia’s fear will be that India continue to hold theirs.

  5. Roebuckian. Thanks JB.
    Have nibbled away at the festive leftovers (Australia’s batting lineup?) over the last few days. Evenly matched teams with consistent bowling containing spotty batsmen. A genuine test.

  6. Merry Christmas PB.

    It will be a test of Australia’s resolve from here, for sure.

  7. Luke Reynolds says

    Well summed up JB. Definitely a steel to this Indian team now, their teams of the past would not have come back so strong from what happened in the 1st Test. Absorbing Test cricket, would love to see Australia v India played over 5 Tests from now on.

  8. But Luke, think of how many T20 games we’d miss out on by scheduling that extra test! :)

    I suspect our priorities are not those of administrators. Or, for that matter, TV executives.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Sadly you’re right John. But imagine 5 Tests in India too, would be fantastic viewing.

Leave a Comment