India wins 2nd test by 75 runs, levels series vs Australia

March 7, 2017 GMT
India's Ravichandran Ashwin, facing camera, celebrates the dismissal of Australia's Mitchell Marsh during the fourth day of their second test cricket match in Bangalore, India, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
India's Ravichandran Ashwin, facing camera, celebrates the dismissal of Australia's Mitchell Marsh during the fourth day of their second test cricket match in Bangalore, India, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

BANGALORE, India (AP) — Ravichandran Ashwin’s 25th five-wicket haul and a cracked and uneven pitch propelled India to a series-leveling, 75-run win on Tuesday, when Australia’s batting lineup capitulated chasing a victory target of 188 in the second test.

On momentum-swinging day that favored the bowlers, 16 wickets tumbled on the deteriorating Bangalore pitch.

Ashwin snared a match-winning 6-41 and Australia lost its last six wickets for 11 runs to be all out for 112.

It was the third time India had defended a target of 187 or less in bilateral tests against the Australians, and will give the hosts a confidence boost after a crushing 333-run defeat in the series-opening match at Pune.

“After losing the first Test the way we did, we wanted to bounce back and not show anyone but ourselves what we are made of,” India skipper Virat Kohli said. “They showed the intent and the belief that we can win from any position. It was about taking responsibility.

“The way they showed heart and character, along with the crowd, is unbelievable.”

The Australians were surprisingly dominant on a crumbling wicket at Pune, and were again in control for the first three days of the second test — dismissing India for 189, setting up an 87-run lead by getting 276 in reply and then having Virat Kohli’s team reeling at 120-4 in the second innings.

But a crucial 118-run fifth-wicket partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara (92) and Ajinkya Rahane (52) swung the momentum back to India. Lokesh Rahul’s 90 in the first innings and gritty 51 in the second earned him the player of the match award.

Kohli said he had become more confident the closer to 200 India’s lead got on the fourth day.

“Pujara and Rahane had a champion partnership — the two best test batsmen we have got, so much character and technique and heart,” Kohli said. “Can’t wait for Ranchi — we need to push that momentum further. The team is not going to look back now.”

The Australians rallied again on the fourth morning, with paceman Josh Hazlewood leading the way with a career-best 6-67 and India losing its last six wickets for 36 — including four in deliveries — en route to being bowled out for 274.

The Indian bowling attack responded quickly, though, by exploiting the conditions and ensuring Australia’s batsmen didn’t get any traction as wickets fell regularly.

Ishant Sharma (1-28) took the first wicket when he had Matt Renshaw (5) caught behind with the Australian total at 22 in the fifth over.

Ashwin took his first when he had David Warner (17) adjudged lbw attempting a sweep shot, not long after lofting the Indian spinner for six, and Australia slipped to 42-2 in the 10th.

The Australians were 101-6 by tea after a terrible session, and Ashwin wrapped up the tail quickly in the evening session to complete a memorable victory.

It was all over 35 minutes after the interval, with Ashwin taking three of the last four wickets.

First, he bowled Mitchell Starc (1) in the third over after the break and, after Ravindra Jadeja bowled Steve O’Keefe (2) at the other end, Indian’s foremost spinner dismissed Peter Handscomb (24) and accepted a simple return catch from Nathan Lyon (2) to complete the formalities.

It was Ashwin’s 25th five-wicket haul in test cricket, and he is quickest bowler to achieve this feat by doing so in 47 tests. New Zealander Richard Hadlee achieved 25 five-wicket hauls in 62 tests.

The third test begins in Ranchi on March 16, and the Border-Gavaskar trophy is still on the line.

Many pundits expected India to sweep the four-test series but its run of 20 unbeaten tests at home ended in the upset loss to Australia at Pune. There have been positives for Australia, which was swept 4-0 on the last tour to India, with left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe taking 12 wickets in Pune and veteran offspinner Nathan Lyon snaring 8-50 in the first innings in Bangalore. The batsmen are still coming to grips with the conditions.

“Certainly ebbed and flowed,” Australia captain Smith said. “I am proud of the way the boys played it.

“The series is well and truly alive — great two tests. Plenty to play for when we go to Ranchi.”