DHARAMSALA -  Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon was the hero on an engrossing second day of the series-deciding fourth and final Test on Sunday, taking four key Indian wickets

The 29-year-old made the most of a lively track at Dharamsala, which is hosting its first Test, to return a rich haul of 4-67. Fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood (1-40) and Pat Cummins (1-59) also bowled their hearts out during frugal spells to restrict the top-ranked hosts to 248-6 at stumps. India still trail by 52 runs with four wickets in hand after Australia made 300 in their first knock, largely thanks to a fine 111 from captain Steve Smith.

At stumps Wriddhiman Saha was batting on 10 with Ravindra Jadeja on 16. "There was a bit out there for me," Lyon said after the day's play. "We bowled well in partnerships. We would like to come out and bowl well again tomorrow and take the four wickets and then bat well.  "They are a world-class batting line-up and you have to challenge them consistently."

The Indian batsmen were guilty of squandering good starts in a match they must win to regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy. But Lokesh Rahul (60) and Cheteshwar Pujara (57) batted patiently to put on 87 for the second wicket, the best partnership so far for the hosts.

"It's by far the best wicket we have played on, there's something in it for the spinners and the fast bowlers as well. The ball kept swinging the whole day," said Rahul. "If you spend some time in the middle it's really good to bat on. All of us got starts but we couldn't convert. But we are happy at the end of the day with 250-odd runs for six wickets. It wasn't really the worst day for us." Ajinkya Rahane, standing in for injured skipper Virat Kohli, also looked set for a big score but ended up gifting a catch to Smith off Lyon for 46 made off 104 balls. Ravichandran Ashwin (30) was adjudged lbw off Lyon. The all-rounder opted for a review but ball tracking showed the stumps would have been hit. Ashwin hit four fours in his brisk 49-ball knock. Lyon conceded 163 runs while taking just one wicket in the previous drawn Test at Ranchi. 

But the bowler, whose experience as a curator means he has a sharp understanding of pitches, brought Australia back into the game in the final session through some classic old-fashioned spin. Lyon's first victim was Pujara, who was coming into the match on the back of an epic innings of 202 at Ranchi.

Pujara tried to defend but the ball ripped back in to hit the glove and then lob up to short leg, where Peter Handscomb pouched an easy catch. Pujara's 57 took his run tally past 400 in the series, behind only Smith who has 482 runs from seven innings. The final session saw another gruelling contest between bat and ball, with the hosts scoring 95 for the loss of four wickets.

The Indians would have been in further trouble but for Matthew Renshaw who dropped two catches, much to the frustration of the toiling bowlers. But the Aussies have the chance to run through India's tail with the second new ball on Monday morning and grab the crucial first-innings advantage. Day two also saw words being exchanged with long stares on a couple of occasions. But mostly the players remained within the bounds of good behaviour in what has otherwise been a fractious series.

Australia, who triumphed at home against India in 2014-15, need just a draw to retain the trophy.

 

 

Scoreboard

AUSTRALIA 1ST INNINGS: 300
INDIA 1ST INNINGS:
(OVERNIGHT: 0-0):
L Rahul c Warner b Cummins 60
M Vijay c Wade b Hazlewood 11
C Pujara c Handscomb b Lyon 57
A Rahane c Smith b Lyon 46
K Nair c Wade b Lyon 5
R Ashwin lbw b Lyon 30
W Saha not out 10
R Jadeja not out 16
EXTRAS: (b4, lb9) 13
TOTAL: (for 6 wkts, 91 overs) 248
FOW: 1-21, 2-108, 3-157, 4-167, 5-216, 6-221.
BOWLING: Hazlewood 18-6-40-1, Cummins 21-5-59-1, Lyon 28-5-67-4, O'Keefe 24-4-69-0.
TOSS: Australia
UMPIRES: Marais Erasmus (RSA), Ian Gould (ENG)
TV UMPIRE: Chris Gaffaney (NZL)
Match referee: Richie Richardson (WIS)