A dominant showing with both bat and ball have brought India close to a series-leveling win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Despite losing Umesh Yadav early to a calf niggle – he has been taken for scans and an update on his injury is awaited – the Indian bowlers were on the mark as the Australians lost 6 wickets with just a two-run lead in their bag. After being reduced to 99 for 6, the duo of Pat Cummins and Cameron Green took the score to 133 for no further loss of wickets.
It was all about the Indian bowlers yet again, as they brushed off the absence of Umesh to bowl tight lines and lengths throughout the day. Even on a wicket that was a beauty to bat on, the Indians posed a series of questions to the rival batters, who had to overcome the huge 131-run lead that was before them.
Earlier in the day, the Indians started off with Ajinkya Rahane being run out. However, Ravindra Jadeja continued and got his fifty but his dismissal sparked a collapse as the Australians ensured the tail did not wag. The home team were dismal on the field yet again, though, with as many as six catches being spilled throughout the Indians innings by the fielders. Marnus Labuschagne dropped Ravi Ashwin off the bowling of Nathan Lyon, and the spinner took full advantage as he helped India’s lead extend beyond the 100-run mark.
It was all about the Indian bowlers thereafter. Opener Joe Burns continued his poor run but fellow opener Matthew Wade grit it out for a solid 40. At the other end, Labuschagne fell to Ashwin while Steven Smith’s horror run continued as he was bowled by Bumrah. While Ashwin varied his pace and lengths wonderfully, Bumrah relied on the shorter balls and the yorkers.
Ashwin set up Smith by varying his pace, pushing the batsman on the front foot and focused on bowling straight with a slip and a leg gully in place. The mainstay of the Australian batting attack was clearly troubled by the Indian and almost lost his wicket to Ashwin for the fourth time in four innings but the edge did not carry. Smith eventually fell to Bumrah for 8, which took his tally in this series to just 10 in 4 innings.
Head and Wade then fell in quick succession before Tim Paine was embroiled in yet another controversy as the hotspot did not deduce an edge, but the snicko picked a spike. The skipper walked back in disappointment as Australia lost their sixth wicket for less than 100. However, Cummins and Green ensured that the team ended the day with no further fall of wickets.
The tail has always been a huge nemesis for the Indian bowlers in the last few years, and the Indian bowlers will want to come back on Day 4 and ensure the last four batsmen are sent back without adding many runs. Without Virat Kohli and Mohammad Shami, the Indians have bounced back strongly, and they would be hoping to finish the job on Tuesday.
Brief scores: Australia 195 & 133/6 (Matthew Wade 40, Marnus Labuschagne 28; Ravindra Jadeja 2-25) lead India 326 (Shubman Gill 45, Ajinkya Rahane 112, Ravindra Jadeja 57; Pat Cummins 2-80, Mitchell Starc 3-78) by 2 runs.