Kohli-led India reach 104/3 three chasing 384 (Tea Report)

Melbourne, Dec 30 (IANS) Australian quicks struck early blows but India reached 104 for three at tea, chasing 384 for victory against Australia on the fifth and final day of the third Test here Tuesday.

India lost the wickets of openers Shikhar Dhawan (0), Murali Vijay (11) and Lokesh Rahul (1) early in their run chase. Pacers Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Josh Hazlewood shared the three wickets to fall at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Virat Kohil (batting 54), his 10th half century, and Ajinkya Rahane (batting 33) put up an inspiring unbeaten 85-run fourth wicket partnership to pull India out of the woods and leave them needing 280 more runs to win at tea.
Australia declared their second innings at 318 for nine courtesy of middle-order batsman Shaun Marsh’s 99, to expand their lead to 383 runs.
India needed a strong foundation in their stiff run chase to give them any hope of a win but began on a disastrous note losing the struggling Dhawan for zero, trapped leg before wicket off Harris. Debutant Rahul was promoted up the order but he fared no better, hopelessly mistiming an attempted pull off Johnson to be caught by a back-pedaling Shane Watson.
The crisis deepened when in-form Vijay was adjudged out leg before off Hazlewood to reduce India to 19 for three.
First innings centurions Kohli and Rahane were faced with the tough task of rebuilding the innings and scoring at a fast clip to keep India in contention for the win.
They began in an enterprising fashion, pulling Johnson for boundaries through the mid-wicket region.
Kohli survived a run out chance on four after a terrible miscommunication. That brought to the fore the animosity between Kohli and the Australians, spearheaded by Johnson, that has been one of the highlights of the series so far.
That started a continuous flow of chattering in the middle but Kohli and Rahane hung in there till tea to steady India’s innings.
Earlier, Shaun Marsh missed his maiden Test century on home soil, getting run out on 99 runs, but steered Australia to 318 for nine declared at lunch, to set India a 384-run target in 70 overs.
Marsh was dismissed by a direct hit from an onrushing Kohli from mid-on while trying to complete what would have been his third Test century with a quick single at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Ran Harris, unbeaten on eight overnight, was first batsman dismissed during the morning session that was halted twice by rain. He was out for 21 by Mohammed Shami, who picked up his second wicket of the innings to give two wickets each to India’s four bowlers.
Rain stopped the action twice but Australia weren’t willing to declare their innings despite the time loss. They waited till Marsh’s century to declare their innings, but Marsh was dismissed just on the stroke of lunch.
The overnight unbeaten pair of Marsh and Harris began the day’s proceedings were watchfully, managing just 17 runs from the first nine overs.
India didn’t take the second new ball as the old one was offering some reverse swing.
Australia were uncharacteristically slow as they batted without any urgency, with the intention of batting India out of the game.