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India's problems amplified by match situation

Barring some looseners early on, Ishant Sharma delivered a top-class performance on the second day Associated Press

Ishant Sharma began day two of the Bengaluru Test with a half-volley on David Warner's pads, and when he sent down another boundary ball in his second over - short, punched through cover point - Australia moved to 50 for 0, Warner to 28, and everything looked ominous for India.

India had lost the first Test and followed that up by getting bowled out for 189 on the first day of the second. They were one more bad day from losing the chance to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. They had only picked four specialist bowlers for this game, and couldn't afford even one of them having an off day. They could rely on their spinners not to have off days, but they couldn't be quite as sure about Ishant or Umesh Yadav.

Now, Ishant wasn't making the greatest start to the day.

He ran in again, with Warner standing at least a foot outside his crease. The speed gun said 141kph, which doesn't sound particularly lightning, but bouncers always clock less than full balls, and Warner was certainly slow to react as the ball spat towards his right ear. His head ducked sideways, and his glove went up instinctively. He was lucky the ball missed everything and whizzed over his right shoulder.

From there on, everything was different. It was as if that bouncer had transformed the mood of the match. Having conceded two fours in his first 10 balls of the day, Ishant would bowl a further 98 balls and concede only one more, Matthew Wade edging past the diving wicketkeeper.

Ishant ended the day with figures of 1 for 39 from 23 overs. Umesh ended it with 1 for 57 from 24. This was India's best day of the series, and the two fast bowlers were as much at the forefront as R Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja.

Ashwin hardly gave anything away - particularly while bowling over the wicket and into the rough outside the left-handers' leg stump - and went to stumps with figures of 1 for 75 from 41 overs. He did not get the ball to misbehave with the frequency of Nathan Lyon on day one, which could have had something to do with his style - he does not put as much overspin on the ball as the Australian - or the fact that the pitch had gotten a little lower and slower, without the first-day dampness that Lyon profited from.

Still, Australia hardly scored off Ashwin, and that, coupled with the fast bowlers' unexpected frugality, probably caused them to play more shots against Jadeja than they otherwise might have. In a curious reversal of roles, Jadeja ended up profiting from the other bowlers' economy, with two of his three wickets - Renshaw jumping out too early and getting stumped down the leg side and Peter Handscomb failing to clear midwicket - coming from batsmen taking chances.

For once, though, Jadeja bowled fewer overs than India's other specialists. On a dry, cracked surface that caused the odd ball to keep low or jag sideways, Virat Kohli kept going to his two quicks - it took until the 47th over of the day for the spinners to bowl in tandem - and Ishant and Umesh kept running in and asking questions, and could well have ended up with more than just a wicket each.

Umesh found Matt Renshaw's edge four times in two overs, and none of them carried to the slips. Three streaked to the third man boundary, and Kohli could have caught one of them had he not risen too early from his anticipatory crouch.

Then Umesh had Shaun Marsh caught behind off the glove. It was given not out, and Wriddhiman Saha, whose appeal was the most vociferous of all the Indian players, did not persuade Kohli to call for a review. When Umesh had Marsh adjudged lbw shortly after tea, a review saved the batsman - an inch the other way and the ball would have hit his pad in line with off stump.

Ishant then nearly had Marsh lbw too. Replays suggested the umpire had every reason to give it out had the bowler not overstepped.

It was that kind of day for India's bowlers, their frustrations amplified by the match situation. On its own, keeping high-quality opponents to 197 for 6 in 90 overs would represent a highly satisfactory day's work, but by the end of it Australia were already ahead by 48 runs. On an absorbing second day, India chased the game as well as they probably could have, but by the end of it were fully aware they were still chasing it.