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Series on knife-edge as Lyon has Indians in a spin


Australia remain in the hunt for a Test series win in India thanks to Nathan Lyon, who spun a web around India late on day two of the Dharamsala decider.

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The top-ranked Test side were 6-248 at stumps last night, trailing the visitors by 52 runs.

Lyon grabbed a haul of 4-21 during the final session, delivering the latest twist in what has been an absorbing four-Test series stacked with swings and roundabouts.

The series, locked at 1-1, remains in the balance.

Australia would be in a far better position if not for two dropped catches at first slip from Matt Renshaw, the latter a dolly that popped out of his hands in the fourth last over of the day.

Wriddhiman Saha, reprieved by Renshaw on nine, was unbeaten on 10 at stumps alongside Ravindra Jadeja (16 not out).

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be pretty evenly poised after day two,” Lyon said.

“We probably left a few runs out there but to have them 6-240 odd, I am quite happy.

“Coming over here everyone wrote us off and to be in this position in the last Test with pressure slightly on India is fantastic.”

Pacemen Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood huffed, puffed and bowled exceptionally well but only claimed a wicket each.

“Josh and Cummins in the first session, I can say it’s the toughest session I’ve faced in Test cricket,” India’s top-scorer KL Rahul said of the testing examination that ended when he fell victim to a bouncer from Cummins.

India resumed at 0-0 with every intention of grinding the visitors into submission with a mammoth first-innings total, as was their plan in Ranchi.

The ploy looked to be working well when Cheteshwar Pujara, who spent over 11 hours at the crease during a game-changing knock of 202 in the third Test, brought up his half-century in 132 balls.

Pujara guided India to 2-157 before becoming the first of Lyon’s four victims, falling in the opening over after tea when he offered Peter Handscomb a simple catch at short leg.

Lyon then removed Karun Nair, stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin.

And the Australian tweaker delighted on a pitch that allowed him to trouble batsmen with bounce as much as spin.

“It was closer to a home wicket, where the bounce is my biggest weapon,” Lyon said.

“I went back to how I bowl (at home)… as the day progressed there was more variation with bounce and spin.”

Lyon also varied his speed a lot more after a debrief with skipper Steve Smith at tea.

“It was a bit of a tactic,” Lyon said.

“If you looked at the way the Indians have been playing me, especially Ajinkya (Rahane), my plan was to come over the wicket and try and get him not to sweep me so my stock ball would be more effective.”

Cummins and Hazlewood each had two overs with the second new ball. The former found the edge of Saha’s bat, however Renshaw failed to complete the dismissal.

Meanwhile, South Australia remain optimistic of regaining a foothold in the Sheffield Shield final against Victoria despite a luckless opening day in Alice Springs.

Needing a win in the five-day match to regain the Sheffield Shield for the first time in 21 years, the Redbacks seemed powerless at times to halt Victoria’s charge on day one with the pre-match favourites ending day one at a hefty 3-322.

Two of Victoria’s most prolific batsman remain at the wicket – Rob Quiney (44 not out) and captain Cameron White (7 not out) – while the Bushrangers also boast an in-form lower order.

Victoria openers Marcus Harris (120) and Travis Dean (94) starred with a 224-run partnership – a record first-wicket stand for the Bushrangers in a Shield final.

Anything resembling a repeat of the opening day will virtually cruel any remaining ambitions for South Australia.

However, SA’s Chadd Sayers – the Shield’s leading wicket-taker this season – believes his side can fight their way back into the contest today.

“We have to come in the morning with a positive mindset and get into their tail,” Sayers said.

“We are going to have bowl very well with two experienced players at the crease now.

“I think if we can take a couple of early wickets, 400 to 450 is probably what we are looking at.

“The pitch will get more worn as the game goes on and turn will come into it.

“It is quite dry and with the amount of cricket that will be played on it, it will definitely turn later in the game.”

South Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa was unable to find much joy on day one, returning figures of 1-127 on what seemed a good batting wicket.

Spin has traditionally been highly effective later in matches at the venue, and Victoria boast two spinners with good records in Alice Springs – Jon Holland and Fawad Ahmed.

“The pitch is good. There is plenty of swing there but it’s a bit slow,” said Victoria opener Harris. “It is probably a typical Alice Springs wicket.

“Zamps and Heady (Travis Head) got a few to turn so hopefully for our sakes it deteriorates a little.”


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