Australia’s openers survived the final nervous overs of a scorching hot afternoon as the home side reached eight without loss at the end of day two in the third test against India on Thursday after the visitors had dominated with the bat.
Marcus Harris was five not out, with Aaron Finch on three as Australia started their response to India’s 443 for seven declared total, the home bowlers made to toil until half an hour before stumps on a grudging Melbourne Cricket Ground wicket.
In a brief and fiery spell, paceman Jasprit Bumrah struck Harris on the helmet with a short ball but the rookie opener rose to his feet quickly and resumed after lengthy attention by medical staff.
With the four-test series poised at 1-1, much will depend on how the MCG’s maligned drop-in wicket performs for an Australian batting order still finding their feet.
But the home side’s hopes of taking a lead into the final test in Sydney would seem slender.
Although failing to grab a wicket, India’s bowlers will head into day three hopeful of an early breakthrough after beating the bats of Harris and Finch with a slew of deliveries.
Having gone to stumps at 215-2 on day one, India’s batsmen enjoyed another dominant day, with Cheteshwar Pujara scoring his second century of the series and skipper Virat Kohli adding 82 to build a hefty total.
Rohit Sharma, back in the side after missing the second test in Perth through injury, also contributed an unbeaten 63 before Kohli declared following Ravindra Jadeja’s caught-behind dismissal for four.
Rohit and Ajinkya Rahane resumed after tea with India on 346-4, but their partnership was soon under siege.
Trying to sweep spinner Nathan Lyon, Rohit sent a top-edge flying to short fine leg, where substitute fielder Peter Siddle made a mess of the chance to dismiss the batsman on 15.
Rahane was nearly out off the next ball with a bat-pad catch just eluding a fielder in close.
The off-spinner was finally rewarded with a ball that kept low and trapped Rahane plum in front for 34, breaking a 62-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
Australia’s hopes of tearing into the tail were held up as Rishabh Pant was reprieved on 15 when he tried to smash Lyon over mid-on, with Cummins grassing a low chance.
Rohit then poked a single off part-time spinner Aaron Finch to secure his 10th test half-century before Pant was eventually out slogging to Usman Khawaja in the field for 39.
Earlier, pace spearhead Mitchell Starc denied Kohli a second century of the series, getting him caught ramping to third man before Pat Cummins bowled Pujara for 106, after the watchful batsman registered his 17th test ton.
Pujara, who scored 123 in the series-opener in Adelaide, was removed by a virtually unplayable delivery that kept low and nipped back off the seam to clip off-stump.