Starc strikes twice to leave India reeling before lunch
By Sudipto Ganguly
PUNE, India (Reuters) - Australia paceman Mitchell Starc ripped the heart out of India's top order with two wickets in three balls to help reduce the hosts to 70 for three at lunch on the second day of the opening test on Friday.
Cheteshwar Pujara was dismissed for six, while India captain and batting mainstay Virat Kohli was despatched for a two-ball duck as the touring side fought back strongly in the first of the four-match series between the world's top two sides.
Replying to their opponent's first innings total of 260 on a wicket favouring both pace and spin, assured opener Lokesh Rahul was unbeaten on 47 with Ajinkya Rahane six not out at the break.
Following Kohli's lead, Australia skipper Steve Smith used one of his spinners as early as the second over on the dry pitch at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in the Western Indian city of Pune, a venue making its debut as a test centre.
Left-armer Steve O'Keefe was largely ineffective, however, before right-arm paceman Josh Hazlewood came on to break India's opening stand in his first over when he induced Murali Vijay into edging a catch behind for 10.
Starc was Australia's new ball pace option but the left-armer was unable to find much success with the new cherry as Rahul settled in quickly to hit him for a few crisply driven boundaries.
Widely considered the world's leading test paceman, Starc would not be denied and he returned to see off Pujara with a rising delivery that brushed the batsman's glove and sailed through to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade.
The sparse crowd appeared indifferent to Pujara's dismissal as they anticipated the arrival of fan-favourite Kohli, who recently became the first batsman to hit four double-centuries in as many consecutive series.
However, their boisterous enthusiasm was replaced by stunned silence just two balls later when the right-hander chased a full and wide delivery from Starc to offer up a routine slip catch.
Rahul and Rahane negotiated the remaining overs through to lunch, though the latter almost perished to off-spin when he edged a Nathan Lyon delivery just wide of a leg slip.
Earlier, Australia's final-wicket pairing lasted less than an over in the morning session with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin dismissing Starc for an eventful knock of 61.
(Editing by John O'Brien)