Australia close in on crushing victory
Australia moved to within touching distance of a series-clinching win over India after just two days of the third Test in Perth.
Opener David Warner’s breathless 180 paved the way for a 208-run first-innings lead that appeared decisive after India limped to 88 for four in their second innings.
It was a familiar top-order failing for India on this tour as they immediately undid any ground made up after their pacemen, led by Umesh Yadav’s maiden five-wicket haul, restricted Australia to 369.
The hosts had looked on course for far more when Warner, who blazed the fourth-quickest Test century last night, and Ed Cowan built on their quick-fire start this morning in a 214-run stand for the opening wicket.
Australia faded thereafter, however, as India took 10 for 155 once Yadav eventually ended the opening stand by bowling Cowan for 74 – the highest score of his young Test career.
Any glimmer of hope India had was quickly extinguished though as their cast of veterans in the top order again folded to tumble towards a defeat as fast-paced as the WACA wicket they have looked all at sea on.
At one stage defeat inside two days looked a possibility, as they slumped to 51 for four.
Openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag were both undone by the pace and bounce, caught behind the wicket off Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle, in consecutive overs.
Starc then grabbed the biggest scalp of his three-Test career when he trapped Sachin Tendulkar lbw, before the out-of-sorts VVS Laxman offered yet another edge, this time off Ben Hilfenhaus, to Shaun Marsh without scoring.
Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli held out against the enthused Australian attack for the final hour of the day, although with their side still trailing by 120 runs they faced an uphill task to avoid defeat early on the third day.
Warner fell short of a memorable double century after reaching 180 from just 159 balls in a stunning innings that included 20 fours and five sixes.
The left-hander was unable to reproduce his onslaught from the opening day, when he reached triple figures in 69 balls, with a blow to his elbow restricting his normal flow.
He did offer glimpses of his hard hitting, smashing Ishant Sharma back over his head for six, and while he was dropped by Kohli at first slip on 126 he batted through the opening hour with Cowan to seemingly set Australia for a full day’s batting.
Those plans were put on hold when Yadav, in his fifth Test, made a triple strike during an impressive spell in the second hour of the day.
Yadav finally ended the opening stand when he squeezed a delivery through Cowan, before quickly sending Marsh and Ricky Ponting on their way.
The 24-year-old found impressive movement off the pitch highlighted by a searing off-cutter that uprooted Ponting’s middle stump.
Warner remained through the session and looked intent on reaching a double century after lunch until he attempted a lusty blow over mid-on and, for the first time in his innings, failed to get enough bat on it and was caught in the deep off Ishant.
It prompted a run of wickets as India earned reward for their persistence in a afternoon session in which they battled back with seven dismissals.
Zaheer Khan deservedly found the edges of Australia skipper Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin who, after claiming India were mentally weak in the lead-up to the Test, departed to scenes of Zaheer blowing him kisses after he failed to score.
Debutant Vinay Kumar then picked up his first Test scalp when Michael Hussey cut straight to gully, before Yadav completed his five-wicket haul by bowling Siddle and having Ryan Harris caught lobbing up an attempted pull shot.
Hilfenhaus was last man out when caught on the ropes off Sehwag.