MELBOURNE, Dec 27: Ajinkya Rahane played a captain�s knock with a workmanlike century that steered India into a dominant position and took the sting out of Australia�s potent bowling attack in the second Test here on Sunday. Trailing 0-1 in the four-match series, India ended the second day at 277 for five for a handy 82-run lead after bowling out Australia for 195 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. At stumps, which was brought early owing to rain, Rahane was going strong on 104 and giving him company was Ravindra Jadeja on 40, the two having added what might prove to be a game-changing 104-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
This was Rahane�s 12th Test hundred and his second at the iconic venue, after a fine 147 during the 2014 tour. A day after earning rich praise for his tactical acumen while marshalling the bowlers, Rahane shone bright with the bat and was spot on with his reading of match situations during his stay in the middle. Rahane got a life when Steve Smith dropped him on 73 at second slip in Australia�s first over with the second new ball, the unlucky bowler being Mitchell Starc, who was taken off the attack after just two overs with the shining red cherry.
That particular phase was crucial from both the team�s point of view and by not losing a wicket to the second new ball, India ensured they finished the day ahead of Australia, in terms of runs as well as psychologically.
Rahane got another reprieve when substitute fielder Travis Head put one down after diving forward from gully, but that was after he had got to the three-figure mark.
To start with, Rahane was more watchful that he had ever been but as the day progressed, he went on to play some sumptuous shots and one of his day�s best was the classic off-drive against Pat Cummins.
Earlier, Rishabh Pant (29) and Hanuma Vihari (21) frittered away promising starts after doing all the hard work, but Jadeja was determined not to do anything of that sort.
Vihari fell to off-spinner Nathan Lyon while trying to sweep him from outside off-stump after he had added 52 runs for the fourth wicket with his captain.
Then came Pant and despite the constant scrutiny around him, the wicketkeeper-batsman showed no nerves and confidently went about playing his strokes.
If Rahane managed to blunt the opposition bowlers with his defensive approach before opening up, Pant�s aggression forced Australia to change their attacking tactic.
Australia 1st Innings: 195
India 1st Innings: Mayank Agarwal lbw b Starc 0, Shubman Gill c Paine b Cummins 45, Cheteshwar Pujara c Paine b Cummins 17, Ajinkya Rahane batting 104, Hanuma Vihari c Smith b Lyon 21, Rishabh Pant c Paine b Starc 29, Ravindra Jadeja batting 40. Extras: (B-12, LB-6, NB-2, WD-1) 21. Total (For five wickets in 91.3 overs) 277. Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-61, 3-64, 4-116, 5-173. Bowling: Mitchell Starc 18.3-3-61-2, Pat Cummins 22-7-71-2, Josh Hazlewood 21-6-44-0, Nathan Lyon 18-2-52-1, Cameron Green 12-1-31-0. � PTI