The first two days of the first Test at the Adelaide Oval were all about Australia, but India fought back in valiant fashion on Day 3 – led superbly by stand-in skipper Virat Kohli.
Australia sent India in when play resumed Thursday morning, declaring at their overnight score of 7/517, but the tourists forged their way to 5/369 by stumps.
Shikhar Dhawan made a blazing start for India, smashing five boundaries in the opening eight overs – before having his stumps knocked over by Ryan Harris for 25; India were 1/30.
Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara put on 81 for the second wicket, Johnson claiming Vijay caught behind for 53, which brought Kohli – filling M.S. Dhoni’s captaincy role for the first time – to the crease.
In arguably the most dramatic moment of the Test, Kohli copped a first-ball bouncer from Johnson to the badge of his helmet, stunning the brilliant Indian batsman and provoking worried attention from the Australian fieldsman. Johnson seemed shaken by the incident.
— Herald Sun Sport (@heraldsunsport) December 11, 2014
The interruption appeared to favour India, with Johnson’s effectiveness blunted for the time being. Pujara was next man out for 73, bowled by Nathan Lyon, leaving India at a 3/192 crossroads.
Kohli and the free-scoring Ajinkya Rahane (62 off 76 balls) put on 101 for the fourth wicket before Lyon struck again with the wicket of Rahane.
The skipper brought up a richly-deserved century – his second in Adelaide – but was caught in the deep by Harris off Johnson’s bowling with less than four overs of play remaining. India finished the day 148 runs in arrears of Australia’s first innings total, but still with five wickets in hand.
Stud of the day
Kohli survived his first-ball blow from Johnson to carve out a memorable ton to keep his side in the Test. A gritty effort from the first-time captain, particularly after his horror series in England where his top score was just 39.
Johnson’s short ball that struck Kohli confirmed the bouncer is still very much a part of cricket, but also reflected the drastically changed landscape since Phillip Hughes’ death; there was no satisfaction for Johnson, only genuine concern from the fast bowler and his teammates. The intimidation mentality that was such a key part of Australia’s Ashes success last summer may have been permanently shelved.
Unless Australia can claim early wickets, this momentous Test looks like playing out to an honourable draw. A first innings lead is still not out of the question for India, but if the hosts can knock over the tail on the morning of day 4, they will have an opportunity to launch a final-day assault for victory.
Kohli became the fourth Indian player to notch a century in their captaincy debut, following in the exalted footsteps of Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and Vijay Hazare.