Australia 263 and 61 for 1 lead India 262 (Axar 74, Lyon 5-67) with 62 runs
The hosts had slumped to 139 for 7, with Lyon doing most of the damage in the first two sessions, as Australia’s opening day 263 took on imposing proportions. But Axar and R Ashwin then added 114 for the eighth wicket to leave the gap just one run.
The game probably would have already gone from India, though, if it weren’t for Axar. He produced a superb innings during which some of his offside play was a highlight, particularly a flat cover against Todd Murphy, and it took a reflexive catch in the middle from Pat Cummins to finish things off when he looked to break away the departure of R Ashwin.
Ashwin had enjoyed his promotion to No.3 as a nightwatchman in Nagpur, but neither he nor Axar would look out of place higher up the order. Ashwin took the role of senior batsman seriously, constantly encouraging Axar though he didn’t seem too worried as he backed up his 84 in the first Test.
Things were very different for the first half of the day. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul had formed a solid opening stand, but once Australia got their first innings, the game took a different turn.
Lyon made the opening cut when he trapped the under-pressure Rahul with a straight one from around the crease. He then produced a superb piece of bowling to beat Rohit with a delivery that slid onto the stumps.
Cheteshwar Pujara had been cheered at the crease in his 100th Test but was erratic throughout his short stay before being trapped for a duck by Lyon with a brave DRS call, prompted by Alex Carey, after Australia had burnt the first two reviews of her too soon with poor, speculative requests. They had used them all up to the 25th over.
This time the replays showed that the ball had hit Pujara’s front board first, broke halfway up and India were 54 for 3.
Things got better for Australia soon after when Peter Handscomb did exceptionally well to keep his composure at short leg and take a catch as it bounced off his body from a powerful drive from Shreyas Iyer. After a somewhat difficult first test, although where fortune did not favor him, Lyon had four.
India then held firm for the next 20 overs as Virat Kohli, looking very secure and judging the length brilliantly, formed a solid partnership with Jadeja who played cautiously until he fell lbw to Murphy, which led to another flurry.
A key moment came when Matt Kuhnemann claimed his maiden wicket by taking an lbw boundary against Kohli. The decision, as Kohli played forward with bat and pad together, was given on the field. Kohli reviewed and it could have been seen that the impact with bat and pad was simultaneous.
However, third umpire Richard Illingworth ruled it was first board – he had no convincing evidence to dispute the on-field call – and simply cut leg stump. As Kohli watched replays in the dressing room, he was still coming to terms with it.
It was a memorable scalp for Kuhnemann, who arrived in India only a week ago, and overall a creditable debut from the left-armer.
When Lyon got KS Bharat out of a glove sweep to complete their five-wicket haul, a three-figure – and possibly decisive – lead was within reach for Australia. But India’s batting was not over.
Just before tea, Axar took on Kuhnemann, sending back-to-back fours and sixes to set up a marker, but it was the defensive confidence as much as the attacking strokes that stood out. However, it could have been fought over on 28 by Lyon if Steven Smith had been able to stay low in his stance and another difficult chance fell to Matt Renshaw at the leg of Ashwin.
Axar brought up his fifty by clipping Kuhnemann over deep midwicket for a six and smashing back-to-back boundaries against Cummins registered the century stand.
They were getting a little desperate for Australia, but the new ball finally closed the innings, though probably not entirely. Ashwin cut leg stump with a half volley to square leg where Renshaw plucked it out of mid-air and Axar could hardly believe that Cummins was able to hang on to his well-struck mid-off drive. After two innings, the teams could not be separated, but Australia made the first moves in the decisive second half.
Andrew McGlashan is deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo