On the verge of making history to be the first Asian side to win a Test series in Australia, it was important that India win the toss and bat first in a pitch where it is expected to turn rampantly third day onwards.
India were forced to make two changes from the squad that won in Melbourne after Rohit Sharma departed for India to be with his wife after his daughter’s birth and Ishant Sharma was rested after a feeling of discomfort in his left rib cage. Opener KL Rahul and China-man Kuldeep Yadav were selected in the playing eleven in place of them.
Although India lost KL Rahul early, Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara steadied the Indian innings with a comprehensive century stand. From thereon, India totally dominated the day’s play by posting 303 runs at the loss of four wickets at stumps with Pujara and Hanuma Vihari remaining not-out.
Pitch Condition: The pitch is expected to be a traditional Sydney wicket wherein the ball will turn profusely. However, since the weather in Sydney is hot and humid, the curator kept a tinge of green grass along with moisture so that the pitch doesn’t crack up in the very first day. Thus, seam bowlers will get help from the wicket on the first day and even the batsmen can score runs freely till tea on day two after which spin will come into play.
Toss: Having called the coin-flip correctly, Indian Captain Virat Kohli decided to have a bat first. This would help them in posting a strong total after which they can dominate Australia in the rest of the match.
First Session: Given a go to prove himself and get back his confidence, KL Rahul came to the crease along with Mayank Agarwal. Agarwal faced the very first ball of the game which was bowled by Mitchell Starc. However, after edging a couple of deliveries to boundaries, Rahul succumbed to Josh Hazlewood’s strict line and length after edging it straight to Shaun Marsh, who was stationed at first slip.
Pujara joined Mayank after Rahul’s departure and both steadied the Indian innings by being patient and not playing rash shots. Having negated the early hours of the day’s play, Mayank and Pujara both looked settled and went on to build a massive partnership for India. The Australian bowlers, mostly Starc bowled a number of bouncers to the Indian batsmen, Mayank in particular, trying to hurry them up but that didn’t result in any Indian damage. The duo stood tall to their grounds taking the Indian tally to 69/1 at the end of the first session.
Second Session: The Australian resumed the second innings with the same tactics, bowling a number of bouncers to the Indian batsmen. The Indian batsmen, however, battled hard and negated the fast bowlers quite well. In the meantime, Agarwal reached to his second half-century in as many matches since his Test debut thus looking solid to post a big total.
Nathan Lyon was soon introduced into the attack, and Mayank greeted him with a fine six over the long-on fence. In the next over, however, just after hitting another six to Lyon, Mayank perished trying to hit six past the long-on fielder Mitchell Starc. Thus, after a fine partnership of 116 runs between the duo, India lost their second wicket.
Virat Kohli was the next man in and he joined Cheteshwar Pujara who looked quite comfortable in the middle. The duo scored runs at ease as Pujara reached to his 21st career fifty. At tea, India were comfortably positioned at 177/2 with Pujara 61* and Kohli 23* still present in the crease. India had added 102 runs in 28 overs and losing just one wicket in the process, which clearly depicted how dominant they were in the second session.
Third Session: As the play resumed for the final session of the day’s play, Hazlewood got the better of Virat dismissing him caught behind to Tim Paine. Pujara was then joined by Ajinkya Rahane and both of them stitched a valuable 48 runs partnership before Rahane was undone by a ripper from Starc. The Indian score read 228 for the loss of four wickets at that particular juncture.
Hanuma Vihari, the makeshift opener of the previous game, then joined Pujara in the middle. Both of them looked solid and hit a number of boundaries to dictate the day’s play in India’s favor. Meanwhile, Pujara scored his 18th career ton. At Stumps, India managed 303/4 in 90 overs with Pujara 130* and Hanuma 39*, both remaining unbeaten.
What should Australia aim for tomorrow?
Australia would have to pick up 2-3 quick wickets within the first session, otherwise, it will be too late for them to get back into the match. They should look to decimate the underperforming Indian lower-order cheaply within 380-400 runs and then themselves post close to 350.
What should India aim for tomorrow?
India should look to bat till tea and post something around 450-500 runs. This will give India the advantage over Australia, and then they should bank on their spinners to get the Australian batsmen out for cheap since the pitch is expected to aid spin post lunch.
It is all India at this moment in the game and if things remain the way it is, then this Indian team will become the first Asian side to achieve a series win Down under.