Handscomb, Stoinis rebuild after Ojha triple-strike
Australia A 185 for 4 (Handscomb 75*, Stoinis 42*, Ojha 3-52) trail India A 301 (Rahul 96, Pujara 55, Shankar 51*, O'Keefe 6-82) by 116 runs
A three-wicket burst from Pragyan Ojha pegged Australia A back on day two of their first four-day match against India A before Peter Handscomb and Marcus Stoinis restored parity with an unbroken partnership of 110 for the fifth wicket. At stumps, Australia A were 185 for four, 116 behind India A's first-innings total of 301.
Abhimanyu Mithun struck early for India A, getting one to shape away from a full length outside off to find Cameron Bancroft's outside edge as he pushed hard at the ball without moving his feet. At the other end, Travis Head nicked Umesh Yadav when he slanted one across with a bit of extra bounce; the ball flew between the wicketkeeper and the diving Karun Nair at first slip.
That ball apart, Umesh struggled with his direction, too often offering width or straying on to the legs of Head and Usman Khawaja, the two left-handers at the crease. The pair put on 50 in 83 balls before Head holed out to mid-off while going after Ojha. Six overs later, Khawaja was gone too, finding deep midwicket with an uppish pull off the same bowler in the last over before tea.
Three balls into the final session, Ojha dismissed another left-handed batsman, getting Nic Maddinson caught at leg slip - Nair diving low to his right - when he stretched out and jabbed at him. Australia A were 75 for 4 at that point, with two new batsmen at the crease.
The excited buzz of the close fielders around Handscomb and Stoinis died down gradually as the ball grew older and softer. The slowness of the surface allowed both batsmen to sit back against the spinners and watch the ball onto their bats. Mishra in particular struggled to bring the batsmen forward. He may or may not have overcome the lack of zip that has hindered him at various points through his career; on this pitch, there was no way to tell. He will hope the pitches in Sri Lanka will have a little more life in them.
Handscomb was eager to use his feet when he got the opportunity, skipping nimbly down the track when he sensed some flight, and wasn't afraid to work the spinners against the turn. A brace of late-cut doubles off Mishra in the 50th over of the innings took him to his half-century, and he celebrated the landmark by jumping down the track and clouting his next ball to the midwicket boundary. In the next two overs, Stoinis lofted Ojha for a straight six and Handscomb pulled Mishra to the midwicket boundary.
It prompted the legspinner to go around the wicket and try to hit the rough outside the right-handers' leg stump. Neither batsman looked particularly troubled and the day wound down to a quiet close.
In the morning session, India A went past 300 thanks to a seventh-wicket partnership of 62 between Vijay Shankar and Amit Mishra. Australia A's bowlers came in with the same plans that brought them success on day one - stump-to-stump line to a 5-4 leg-side field - without quite maintaining the same level of discipline. There were no rank bad balls, but the seamers occasionally bowled too straight or too full, allowing Shankar and Mishra to inch the score upwards through a steady trickle of singles square on the leg side.
As lunch approached, Shankar grew more expansive, lofting the offspinner Travis Head for a six over mid-off and punching Sean Abbott to the cover boundary. He went from 42 to 46 with another back-foot punch off Abbott at the start of the second session, and in the same over drove him fiercely to the right of mid-off to bring up his half-century.
He ran out of partners, though, as Steve O'Keefe broke the partnership and ran through the tail. He had Mishra lbw prodding forward and playing for the turn, while Mithun, Yadav and Ojha perished going for aggressive shots.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo