Australia will need just another eight wickets on day 5 of the Test match between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Team India ended the day on 98 for 2, after the loss of Rohit Sharma’s wicket in the last half an hour of play, and will need to bat out three sessions on the last day to come out of the Test match with a draw.
The Australian cricket team were dominant on the fourth day’s play, as they first set India an improbable 407 for a win, and then sent back the openers after India had gotten off to a decent start. The pair of Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill scored their second seventy-plus stand in as many innings, as they ensured that runs kept coming in. Though the pacers, in particular Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, were in lethal form, and spinner Nathan Lyon was getting the ball to turn, both Rohit and Gill looked comfortable in their stay at the crease. The former was at his best against Lyon, while the young gun Gill shuffled across the pacers’ lines to throw them off their rhythm.
However, they were unable to consolidate the stand as Hazlewood struck in the first ball in his return spell, as he got Gill to outside edge one to the wicket keeper Tim Paine. He was out for 31, which saw Cheteshwar Pujara walk out. The number three survived a LBW shout with the ball going over the stumps, as he and Rohit tried to reconstruct the innings. Rohit got his first overseas fifty in the format as an opener but fell to a well set up plan as he pulled a short ball down leg to Mitchell Starc, who was positioned at fine leg. Pujara and Rahane then survived the rest of the tricky overs, even though Cummins was in full form to take the game into the fifth day – the first time a Test has gone to the last day in the current series.
Earlier, it was all about Australia as they switched gears and piled on runs with ease against a visibly jaded bowling attack, They upped the ante in the second session, as they piled on 130 runs at a run rate of 5.65. Cameron Green fell shy of his maiden Test ton, as the home team declared on 312 for 6, setting India a huge target of 407 to chase in the fourth innings.
The Indian fielding was woeful as a couple of catches went down, Steve Smith was in a determined mood and Tim Paine played fearlessly after Rohit spilled a catch. Smith missed out on his second ton of the game as he fell to Ravi Ashwin for the third time in the series, walking back for 81, but it did not stop Paine and Green from playing positively and aggressively. The youngster, in particular, was impressive as he used his feet well and switched gears after getting his maiden Test half century. He struck eight fours and as many as four sixes in his knock of 84, before he got a bottom edge.
On a pitch that had started deteriorating, the duo of Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne struggled early on. India dropped the latter in just the second ball of the day, as Hanuma Vihari, positioned at backward point, failed to grab on to the flick. Batting on 47 at the time, Labuschagne went on to get a fine fifty – his second of the game. The batsmen soon found their groove as they got the better of the Indian pacers and used their feet well against the lone spinner Ravi Ashwin.
Navdeep Saini got the much-needed breakthrough as he got Labuschagne to edge one that was going down leg side. The 103-run stand had troubled India, but there was more to rejoice as Saini sent back Matthew Wade in the very next over. However, all hopes of a comeback evaporated once Green joined hands with Smith as the lead raced away to more than 400.
Ravindra Jadeja, who has been ruled out of the next six weeks due to a fracture in his left thumb, might walk out to bat on Day 5 after a dose of injections, if the need arises.
Brief scores: Australia 338 & 312/6 dec (Marnus Labuschagne 73, Steve Smith 81, Cameron Green 84; Navdeep Saini 2-54, R Ashwin 2-95) lead India 244 & 98/2 (Shubman Gill 31, Rohit Sharma 52; Pat Cummins 1-25) by 309 runs