Lyon spins India out again; Australia need 76 to win
Cheteshwar Pujara top-scored with 59, the only batter to pass 30 as India were dismissed for 163 in their second innings
India 109 & 163 (Pujara 59, Lyon 8-64) lead Australia 197 (Khawaja 60, Jadeja 4-78, Umesh 3-12) by 75 runs
A remarkable eight-wicket haul from Nathan Lyon put Australia on the brink of a rare Test win in India. The game, however, was far from over after a stunning first-innings batting collapse from the visitors and an obdurate half-century from Cheteshwar Pujara kept the hosts in the contest in Indore.
Day two was even more chaotic than day one, with Lyon claiming 8 for 64 to bowl India out for 163 in the second innings on the stroke of stumps, setting Australia a target of just 76. It would not have been that many without Pujara's 142-ball 59. It might not have been that many without another chaotic Australian collapse in the morning session that will give India's bowlers hope on the third day.
Australia had led by 77 runs with six first-innings wickets in hand at drinks on the second morning only to lose 6 for 11 in 34 balls of chaos to let India back into the game. On a spinner's paradise, Umesh Yadav took three wickets in three overs to finish with figures of 3 for 12, while R Ashwin bagged three at the other end to bowl Australia out with a lead of just 88. Their tail has provided no resistance on the entire tour, but this was statistically among the worst lower-order collapses in Australia's Test history.
Pujara had to work exceptionally hard to erase India's deficit without much help from his top-order teammates as Lyon never let them breathe during an unwavering spell from around the wicket after lunch. Pujura stood firm but he never stood still in nearly four hours of attrition to keep India alive. Having learned from his mistake in the first-innings, he played almost exclusively on the front foot with a vertical bat, always playing in front of his pad, and used his feet superbly to smother the spin of Lyon, Todd Murphy and Matthew Kuhnemann. It was something his team-mates could not manage. Shubman Gill fell to a wild heave across the line to Lyon in the first over after lunch. Rohit Sharma misjudged the length going back to a full ball from Lyon. Virat Kohli played an ill-fated cross-bat shot off the back foot to Kuhnemann, before Ravindra Jadeja was unable to get his bat in front of his pad as he was trapped plumb in front by Lyon.
India's deficit though had been whittled to just 9 by tea and it quickly became a lead of 23 with six wickets in hand just four overs after the break. Shreyas Iyer thumped three fours and two sixes to leave Australia wondering if they had let the game slip from an impregnable position, just as they had done in Delhi.
But Steven Smith, who captained magnificently in Pat Cummins' absence, pulled the right rein by bringing Mitchell Starc into the attack. Shreyas chipped the ball to midwicket where Usman Khawaja took a diving catch to his left, having spent almost all of the second session off the field.
India led by 52 with three wickets in hand but Australia were still sweating with India's best batter in the series Axar Patel joining Pujara. Lyon kept probing, Smith kept tinkering with the field, and eventually the reward came. Smith took a stunning one-hander at leg slip having left that position vacant quite a lot during Pujara's innings. Lyon was able to claim the final two wickets without Axar doing major damage and they avoided a nervy couple of overs starting the chase on the second night in the process.
It was sweet relief for Australia having earlier butchered a chance to take the game well beyond India's reach in the first innings. Peter Handscomb and Cameron Green had added 30 without loss and without any drama in the first hour of day two. Both batters had defended well and used their feet smartly to find scoring options without huge risk. Less than half an hour later Australia were all out with a lead of just 88, having lost 6 for 11 in 34 deliveries.
It was a stunning turnaround sparked by Ashwin and Umesh, two bowlers Rohit had hardly used in the first hour. Ashwin found the perfect length that he had been searching for on day one and extracted some extra turn and bounce to have Handscomb caught at short leg. Umesh then claimed the key scalp of Green with a ball that just straightened a touch off the seam and had Green playing the wrong line as tried to work through the leg side. He was hit on the back leg and adjudged lbw by Joel Wilson. Had he not been given out, India would have had no reviews to use. Ball tracking had it clipping the outside corner of leg stump. Australia folded from there as they have done so often in this series with Umesh castling Starc and Murphy's off stump with fast reverse-swinging deliveries from around the wicket while Ashwin got through Carey and Lyon's defences with ease.
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo