The Indian batsmen showed positive intent in their reply to Australia's commanding score of 451 by reaching 120 for 1 on the second day of the third cricket Test in Ranchi. KL Rahul (67) scored his fourth half-century of the series and together with Murali Vijay (42 batting), conjured up a stand of 91 -- their best of the series -- on a JSCA track that remained good for batting.
India still need 132 runs to avoid the follow-on but with Virat Kohli's fitness a concern, the onus will be on other batsmen to help India post a substantial total.
By far India's best batsman in the current series, this was Rahul's fifth half-century in Test cricket. But just when he was looking good for a big score, Rahul frittered away the advantage edging one to Matthew Wade off comeback man Pat Cummins' delivery. He faced 102 balls hitting nine boundaries while Vijay also looked compact at the other end remaining unbeaten on 42 in his 50th Test appearance.
Cheteshwar Pujara was at the other end, batting on 10, when stumps were drawn for the day. Vijay hit six boundaries in 102 balls showing enormous patience as he left anything that was remotely pitched outside the off-stump. After a couple of difficult pitches, it was one of the easier tracks to bat on.
After negotiating the initial spell of Cummins and Josh Hazlewood safely, Rahul opened up by hitting shots on all sides of the square. Rahul treated all the bowlers with equal disdain. Cummins was hit for three boundaries, so was Steve O'Keefe while Hazlewood was dispatched to the ropes on two occasions.
Earlier, Steve Smith posted the highest individual score by an Australian captain in India, smashing 178 off 361 balls with 17 boundaries to his credit. Glenn Maxwell (104) also completed a well-deserved maiden Test hundred. He had nine boundaries and two sixes in his 185-ball knock.
The Smith-Maxwell duo put on 191 runs for the fifth wicket, laying the foundation for the big Australian total. Australia's last five wickets fell for a mere 56 runs which prevented Smith from completing his double hundred. For India, Ravindra Jadeja (5/124) bowled with a lot of heart sending down as many as 49.3 overs.
Equally praiseworthy was Umesh Yadav's performance (3/108 in 31 overs), who bowled with pace and got the old ball to reverse on a consistent basis. Ravichandran Ashwin had a bad day in office as he got 1/114 in 34 overs. More noticeably, not for once did he look menacing on a track that did not offer much help unlike the first two Test matches.