Stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane led from the front with a classy unbeaten century as India built a solid first-innings lead on day two of the second Test against Australia in Melbourne.
Rahane – captaining India for the rest of the series after Virat Kohli returned home for the birth of his first child – reached 104 not out before rain halted play at the MCG, with the tourists on 277-5.
His unbroken partnership with Ravindra Jadeja had also passed three figures, giving India a valuable advantage of 82 as they seek to recover their 1-0 deficit in the four-match series.
Australia, bowled out for 195 on the first day, had scented blood after Pat Cummins (2-71) struck twice in rapid succession to leave their opponents wobbling at 64-3 before Rahane and the middle order got the innings back on track.
Resuming at 36-1 overnight, India struggled in the face of a superb spell from Cummins, who beat the bat repeatedly and had Shubman Gill caught behind for 45, denying him the chance of a half-century on his Test debut.
Australia captain Tim Paine then pulled off a fine diving catch to remove Cheteshwar Pujara (17) in Cummins’ next over, but Rahane held firm and he and Hanuma Vihari gradually eased the pressure with a stand of 52.
Vihari (21) eventually fell sweeping at Nathan Lyon, but Rishabh Pant’s brisk innings of 29 from 40 balls increased the tempo and brought India within sight of the hosts’ first-innings total.
Mitchell Starc (2-61) dismissed Pant to register his 250th Test wicket, with the left-hander’s attempted cut shot giving Paine a third scalp of the innings, yet that proved to be Australia’s final success of the day.
The home side squandered opportunities to remove Rahane, who edged Starc between the wicketkeeper and first slip before, on 73, he prodded the left-armer towards Steve Smith at second slip.
However, Smith was unable to snap up the chance and, while Jadeja dug in for a watchful 40 not out, Rahane went on to bring up his 12th Test ton – and his second at the MCG – with a square cut off Cummins.
Australia’s frustration was compounded by what turned out to be the final ball of the day as Starc produced a short delivery that Rahane could only nudge to Travis Head at point – but it flew out of the fielder’s hands as he hit the ground.
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