India need to survive Day 5 yet again as they look for a draw after being set an improbable 328 for a win in the last and final Test match against Australia at The Gabba in Brisbane. A draw will also ensure that India retain the coveted Border-Gavaskar Trophy. They will, however, not find the task easy as the track here has wide cracks, which means that the deliveries have uneven deviation and bounce. There is also prediction of rain, which will make batting tough for the Indians as they gear up to face a menacing Australian fast bowling attack that is likely to get even more threatening under overcast conditions.
Day 4 belonged to Mohammad Siraj, who has shown great maturity on the tour. The fast bowler picked up his maiden five-wicket haul – also the first by any Indian bowler in the series. His effort helped the visiting team dismiss Australia for 294 all out in the second innings, which was only the third time in the last 32 years that the home team have been bowled out twice in the same game at the venue.
The Indian bowlers were on the mark yet again as they prevented the Australians from running away with the game. Siraj got good support from Shardul Thakur, who ended with four wickets. The highlight for Siraj must have been the wicket of Steve Smith with a ball that reared off the track, deflected off the glove and was latched on at gully. Tim Paine was out in a similar fashion, and there is reason for the Indian batters to be afraid as they get ready to face 98 overs (weather permitting) on the last day of what has been a tough series.
However, Smith did impress during his stay at the crease as he added quick runs and got to his fifty in quick time. Washington Sundar, who had sent David Warner earlier in the day, could have got Smith as well but he was dropped by Mohammad Siraj in the deep when he was on 42. Cameron Green was also dropped by Siraj a few overs later by Siraj yet again. He was eventually sent back by Shardul Thakur after piling on 73 runs with Steve Smith for the fifth wicket.
The Australian tail managed to wag yet again as the last three wickets added 47 runs as the lead swelled past 300. The day began with the Indian bowlers unable to get their line and lengths on point as they conceded 40 runs in just seven overs. It was Thakur who got the first breakthrough as he sent back debutant Marcus Harris off a short ball before Warner was LBW by Sundar. The Aussies added 128 runs in the first session on Day 4, despite India picking up the wickets of Marnus Labuschange and Matthew Wade as well.
The series now boils down to an exciting last day. Team India, battered, bruised and without key players have shown real fortitude and fight to put up a strong display, and they will hope they can play fearlessly on Day 5 to return with the trophy.
Brief Scores: Australia 369 & 294 (Smith 55, Warner 48; Siraj 5-73, Thakur 4-61) lead India 336 & 4/0 by 324 runs