In an enthralling day of game’s play, India inch closer towards victory as Australia fought back after decimating the Indian batting order. Resuming the innings at 8/0, the Baggy Greens were bundled up for a mere 151, thus handing over a whopping lead of 292 runs to the Indians. Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja exploited the pitch’s misbehavior to their aid as they wreaked havoc in the batsmen’s mind. Bumrah was the chief tormentor with a figure of 6/33 at the conclusion of the Australian innings.
To an utter surprise for everyone, Indian skipper Virat Kohli decided not to enforce the follow-on and rather bat and allow Australia to chase a target. This was highly surprising to everyone as the weather prediction before the start of the match stated that chances of rain are 50% on Day 4 and 80% on Day 5.
The Indian openers Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal came onto the crease and tried to negate the early threats of the new ball. However, having done so, Vihari was caught off-guard to a Pat Cummins bouncer which was easily caught by Usman Khawaja at slips. What followed next was completely astonishing. The Indian middle-order perished quickly in a short span of time. From 28/0, India were decimated to 44/5 after a superb spell from Pat Cummins who single-handedly brought back the Kangaroos into the match. However, the Indian lead is still too much to cause worry in the Indian camp as they now lead the game by 346 runs.
First Session: Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch resumed the day’s play for Australia, while Ishant Sharma opened the bowling for India. The Aussie openers looked a bit positive and attacked the Indian pacers in the first few overs before Aaron Finch was sent back to the pavilion from a well-thought-out plan by Ishant and Virat Kohli. The Indian captain placed a short mid-wicket due to Finch’s tendency of flicking the ball towards fine-leg for a boundary and was soon rewarded after Finch was caught by Mayank Agarwal at short mid-wicket off Ishant’s delivery while trying to flick for a boundary. Bumrah soon dismissed Harris, having him caught at fine-leg to Ishant Sharma.
Australia were reeling at 36/2 at that stage, and it was expected that Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja would steady their sinking ship, however, Ravindra Jadeja had other plans. He bowled a flat delivery on the patchy rough surface of the pitch, and Khawaja unable to control his defense handed over an easy catch at forward short-leg to Mayank. Travis Head joined Shaun Marsh into the middle with Australia lurching at 53 for the loss of three wickets.
A partnership of 36 between Shaun and Travis soon steadied the Australian Innings and took them to 89 before Marsh was dismissed at the penultimate ball before lunch. Bumrah bowled a slower delivery which Marsh completely misjudged as it hit his pads, and was adjudged LBW. At the end of the first session, the Australian score read 89/4.
Second Session: Mitchell Marsh, the younger brother of Shaun, joined Head in the middle. Soon, Head was bowled out by Bumrah courtesy of a ripper for which Head had no answers. The Australian innings was floundering at 92/5 at this juncture. Seven overs later, Jadeja had Mitchell caught at slips to Ajinkya Rahane. Pat Cummins joined Australia’s captain Tim Paine in the middle as India were now going for a kill.
Pat and Tim, as usual, provided some resistance to the Indian bowlers as India were desperately looking for a wicket. The couple added a valuable 36 runs partnership before Shami dislodged Cummin’s stump courtesy of an unplayable delivery. The Australian scoreboard read 138 for the loss of seven wickets. Mitchell Starc along with Tim then resisted the Indian bowlers of further damage before the Tea break, while taking the total to 145/7.
Third Session: Hoping to dismantle the Australian lower-order cheaply, the Indian bowlers just did the same. On the very second over of the third session, Bumrah got Paine flick through the leg side which resulted in a faint-edge that was easily caught by Rishabh Pant behind the wicket. Bumrah in his next over got Nathan Lyon plumb, while also picking up his maiden five-wicket haul in Australia. In the very same over, he castled Josh Hazlewood thus bundling the Australian innings to 151 and handing over a whopping lead of 292 runs to India.
It was expected by all that the Indians would enforce the follow-on, however, to an utter surprise for everyone, Indian skipper Virat Kohli decided not to enforce the follow-on and rather bat and allow Australia to chase a target. This was highly surprising considering the weather prediction before the start of the match stated that chances of rain are 50% on Day 4 and 80% on Day 5.
The Indian openers Hanuma Vihari and Mayank Agarwal came onto the crease and tried to negate the early threats of the new ball. However, having done so, Vihari was caught off-guard to a Pat Cummins bouncer which was easily caught by Usman Khawaja at slips. What followed next was completely astonishing. The Indian middle-order perished quickly in a short span of time. From 28/0, India were decimated to 44/5 after a superb spell from Pat Cummins who single-handedly brought back the Kangaroos into the match.
First, Cheteshwar Pujara, and then, Virat Kohli, both were caught at leg-gully by Harris flicking leg side for a couple of runs off Cummins. From 28/0, the Indian total suddenly read 28/3. Ajinkya Rahane was the next man in but he too was undone by Cummins, after he was caught by Paine behind the wicket. However, Mayank Agarwal on the other end remained unfazed and looked solid. However, his partner Rohit Sharma too failed to stitch a partnership with him, getting dismissed by Hazlewood after edging the delivery that went straight to the hands of Shaun Marsh, who was stationed at first slip. Mayank along with Rishabh Pant then resisted any other damage by the Aussie bowlers, taking the Indian total to 54/5 at the end of day’s play, and thus leading the Aussies by 346 runs.
What should Australia aim for tomorrow?
Australia would try to dismantle the Indian second innings as cheaply as possible and then provide resistance and toil through their innings until the predicted rain emerges and helps them draw the match. However, for that to happen, they would have to battle for a minimum of five sessions and would also need some luck. A victory for Australia in this uneven pitch is completely ruled out.
What should India aim for tomorrow?
The Indians should look to score another 60–70 runs quickly and ask the Australians to chase down a target of 400. They should then try to dismantle the Australian batting as quickly as possible so that they can avoid the predicted rain which can hamper their chance of winning their first Boxing Day Test Match in Australia.
A victory for Australia is now clearly ruled-out, however, what will be interesting to see is whether the decision by Captain Kohli not to enforce the follow-on will hamper the chance of an Indian win as rains are predicted on Day 4 & 5. Now it is all for India to lose the chance of winning this test match. What are your thoughts about the same?