India in strong position to level test series vs Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia faces a big challenge to avoid defeat in the second cricket test against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground after the home side suffered another batting collapse on Monday’s third day of play.

India’s performance represents a stunning reversal of form, following an embarrassing eight-wicket loss in Adelaide in the first test of the four-match series.

Leading by just two runs overall, Australia will resume its second innings on Tuesday on 133-6. Cameron Green (17 not out) and Pat Cummins (15 not out) have added 34 off 112 balls for the seventh wicket and hanging on grimly.

Second-gamer Green hit a back-foot drive through mid-off for a boundary in the final over of the day to put Australia in front, as the crowd of 24,995 found a rare reason to cheer.

Trailing by 131 runs on the first innings after India scored 326, Australia lost the wickets of Joe Burns (4) and Marnus Labuschagne (28) before tea on Monday.

A nervous-looking Burns, who has scored 0 and 4 in Melbourne, was caught behind off the bowling of Umesh Yadav.

Yadav limped off with a calf-muscle injury midway through his fourth over, depleting India’s bowling attack.

Labuschagne fell on 28, when he was caught at slip off the bowling of spinner Ravi Ashwin.

Australia’s batting hopes initially rested with test cricket’s top-ranked batsman Steve Smith. However, Smith has not reached double figures once in the series — the former test skipper was bowled around his legs by Jasprit Bumrah for eight at 71-3.

Matthew Wade was LBW to spinner Ravindra Jadeja at 98-4, after scoring 40 off 137 balls in a gritty performance. Head (17) played an ambitious shot at a wide ball from Mohammed Siraj, and was caught at second slip with the total still on 98.

Australia suffered a middle-order collapse, losing three wickets for one run, including the dismissal of Tim Paine. The skipper was caught behind off the bowling of Jadeja (2-25), following a video review.

Cummins was dropped on 11 by wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, although it was a very difficult chance.

While India enjoyed another day of dominance, the tourists could have been in an even better position.

India was bowled out just before lunch for 326, losing its last three wickets for one run.

Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane was needlessly run out for 112, when Jadeja was seeking a single on 49. Rahane and Jadeja (57) had steered India to a first-innings advantage with their 121-run partnership for the sixth wicket.

Rahane, 32, calmly soaked up the pressure applied by Australia’s bowlers in his patient, 223-ball knock, hitting 12 boundaries in his 112.

Wade said he hoped Australia’s tai-lenders could deliver an overall lead of 150 or even 200.

“We’ll take anything. Anything over 100 would be good,” he said. He said the pitch was offering some assistance to the spinners and seamers. “Every now and then there is a bit of nip,” Wade added.

India’s pace-bowling debutant Siraj, who has claimed three wickets in the match including removing Head on Monday, said the pitch was “getting slower and slower."

Siraj said it was vital that India did not let Australia off the hook in the morning session on Tuesday.

“We just want to stick to basics,” he said. India is without its best batsman and captain Virat Kohli for the rest of the series, after he returned home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Kohli left with India trailing 1-0 after a loss in Adelaide, where the tourists were bowled out for a national-record low of 36 in its second innings.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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