Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar were the new faces of determination and fightback, as Team India pitched in with a strong performance after having their backs to the wall yet again. Time and again, the visiting team have been pushed to a corner by a relatively superior Australian team, who are without almost all their key players, but each time India have managed to answer back strongly. The latest display of resolve and grit was on display on Day 3 of the third and final Test match at the Gabba, as two young players took India out of a hole after they had been reduced to 186 for 6.
Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar stitched together a 123-run partnership for the seventh wicket, and it hardly appeared that two cricketers – who would not have been in the XI had India not suffered a spate of injuries – were batting. Over the 36 overs that they were at the crease, they negotiated the short balls with ease, saw off the new ball and waited for the loose deliveries.
Coming together after rash shots from Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal and Rishabh Pant, it had seemed like all was lost for Team India after they looked set to concede a huge first innings lead, and with it, probably even the series, but all hopes returned as Thakur and Sundar frustrated the rival bowlers. On the Brisbane track that had plenty of bounce and pace, the two young guns saw off the barrage of short ball bowling before making hay with the full balls that were bowled.
Shardul smashed Mitchell Starc for three successive fours – two of them were drives off the front foot while the third was cut through point. Thakur reached his maiden Test fifty in just his second game with a fine six off Nathan Lyon and batted well for his 67 to end as India’s highest run scorer in the first innings. He was eventually dismissed by Pat Cummins.
Sundar, on the other hand, looked at ease as well, ending with a score of 62 – the highest score by a visiting number 7 in Australia on debut. He was out while trying to steer a short ball from Mitchell Starc, only to see it being latched on at gully. Mohammed Siraj then tried a few cheeky hits as Team India got nearer to Australia’s first innings score. They eventually were all out for 336 and conceded a mere 36-run lead. Josh Hazlewood ended with 5 wickets.
Earlier, it was all about the Australian bowlers who got the Indian middle order in quick succession. Pujara got out to another cracker delivery, while skipper Rahane was dismissed while driving Starc to second slip. Agarwal outside edged one while attempting a drive, while Pant perished soon after. The quick dismissals followed by a long tail must have worried the Team India fans, but their players displayed great fighting spirit yet again in the series. Considering that the side are without their first-choice bowlers and without skipper Virat Kohli, not many would have given Team India a chance, but they have never backed down even when up against the mightiest bowlers. And for that, they need tremendous applause.
Brief Scores: Australia 369 & 21/0 lead India 336 (Shardul Thakur 67, Washington Sundar 62; Josh Hazlewood 5-57) by 54 runs.