King Kohli eyes century, silences Gavaskar
Virat Kohli silenced Sunil Gavaskar and a desperate Australian attack to keep India alive and kicking in the second Test.
The normally unstoppable King of Indian cricket had not made a half century against Australia in nine innings when he strode to the crease at 2-8, only to waste no time building his latest Test masterpiece in Perth.
Not only was Kohli under pressure from the astute bowling plans of the Aussie quicks but he copped a rare spectacular spray from one of his own after the great Gavaskar unleashed on his tactics as captain early on day two.
India are still 154 runs behind Australia's first innings total of 326, but as the gremlins in the Perth pitch incredibly disappeared yesterday, Kohli (82 not out) is bearing down on a seventh career ton against his most despised rivals, after steering his side to 3-172 at stumps.
Gavaskar savaged Kohli for not opening with key swing weapon Jasprit Bumrah with a virtually new ball to start day two, as Tim Paine (38) and Pat Cummins (19) piled on a valuable 49 lower order runs on a mystery pitch.
Mitchell Starc (2-42) hit back at fierce condemnation from Shane Warne with two key scalps including a cracking delivery to skittle Murali Vijay in the third over which he celebrated animatedly, but Cummins and Nathan Lyon went wicketless on a day of exhausting toil.
Just as foreign as criticism is of Kohli from his own is batting droughts - but there was no other way to describe the way Australia had suffocated him both in the first Test in Adelaide and on last year's tour of the sub-continent.
But after weathering a relentless spell from Pat Cummins, Kohli showed his champion qualities as he anchored critical match-saving partnerships with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane (51 not out) worth 74 and 90 unbeaten runs respectively.
Pujara once again showed why he's India's new wall as he faced 103 deliveries when the heat was on, but it was Rahane who really changed the course of the game as he upped the ante with a blazing innings that took all the pressure off Kohli at the other end.
Rahane smashed six boundaries and the only six of the game in quick time to take advantage of a wild pitch that suddenly behaved upon Kohli's arrival at the crease, almost by command like Moses parting the Red Sea.
Kohli made up for pulling the wrong rein in the morning when he gave a nine-overs' old second new ball to Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami - who were dismally short and limp and allowed Australia easy runs.
Gavaskar did not miss India's modern day superstar.
"Astonished, baffled not just surprised," Gavaskar told Sony Sports of the decision.
"Baffled because (of) the ball he bowled to Paine with the second new ball towards the end of yesterday's play - pitching on a length, beating Paine and going over wicketkeeper Pant's head.
"When somebody is bowling that way… Why would you not give him the ball straight away at the start of the day's play?"
Bumrah finished day one with figures of 1-41 from 22 overs.
"He's been your best bowler on this surface," Gavaskar said.
"Yes, there might have been others who would have got more wickets to show but you know who's the man more likely to get you the wicket of Tim Paine in the morning."
India ultimately broke the partnership when Umesh Yadav skittled Cummins' stumps, before Bumrah - as predicted by Gavaskar - broke through Paine's defence.
But Australia had already surged past 300 and built a formidable total.
Usman Khawaja did the post-match press conference and said India's long tail with Ishant Sharma at No.8 gave Australia something to aim at.
"Hopefully yeah. If we can get a couple of wickets early and obviously break this partnership right now, it's not an easy wicket to start off on," said Khawaja.
"If we start off well we'll have our chance at that tail. We will still have to be quite disciplined.
"Your guess is as good as mine (about this pitch). Everyone pretends to be an expert on wickets but none of us really know.
"They could have nicked a couple more and it could have been a totally different day. I think there's still enough in it."
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