The third day of the New Year’s Test played at the Sydney Cricket Ground is known as the ‘Pink Day’ or ‘Jane McGrath Day’, with the two teams along with the fans donning pink in support of the fight against breast cancer. After posting 622/7, India were expected to run down the Australian line-up at ease and then ask them to follow-on. However, the Australians, especially Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja, and Marnus Labuschagne came up with a positive frame of mind and played some attacking cricketing shots as they kept India at bay. However, a flurry of wickets in the afternoon session brought India back into the contention to win this Test Match, but, Peter Handscomb and Pat Cummins ensured that Australia didn’t lose any more wickets as the play concluded earlier than the stipulated 90 overs due to rain.
First Session: Marcus Harris faced the first delivery of the day which was bowled by Jasprit Bumrah, and he immediately played it for three runs. He along with Usman Khawaja looked positive and played some attacking shots as the pitch still looked good for batting despite some rough marks developing on the surface. This was the reason why Indian captain Virat Kohli brought in Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav early into action. Although, this didn’t stop the two in scoring runs at ease. However, in the 22nd over of the Australian innings, Kuldeep got the better of attacking Khawaja who was caught at mid-wicket by Cheteshwar Pujara as Marnus Labuschagne joined Harris in the middle. Soon, Harris reached to his second test fifty. Both the batsmen continued to display their attacking prowess as they hit the Indian bowlers all round the park. At the end of the first session, Australia were comfortably positioned for a draw after posting 122 for the loss of one wicket. In this session, the Kangaroos had posted 98 runs in 30 overs.
Second Session: Jadeja started the proceedings for India as Harris faced the first ball post lunch. In the very third over of the session, Marcus Harris got played down off Jadeja which boosted the Indians for a comeback. Shaun Marsh was the next man in, however, he was soon dismissed by Jadeja after Marsh edged a normal delivery which was caught by Ajinkya Rahane, the Indian Test Vice-Captain at slips. Soon, a stunning catch caught by Rahane who was stationed at short mid-wicket removed Labuschagne, who looked well settled at the crease. Suddenly at this juncture, the Australian score read 152/4.
Travis Head and Peter Handscomb then steadied the Australian innings with a 40-runs partnership, before Kuldeep dismissed Head of a low full-toss which was hit straight to him that Kuldeep held comfortably. The Baggy Greens captain Tim Paine then joined Handscomb in the middle, and both the batsmen then played on till Tea taking the Aussie total to 198 runs for the loss of five wickets.
Third Session: Having dominated the entirety of the second session, India resumed the third session on a positive note as Tim Paine was undone by a Kuldeep Yadav masterpiece as the Chinaman bowler shattered Paine’s stumps. Pat Cummins then along with Handscomb, negated the Indian bowling threats wisely, as they played the Indian bowlers carefully and watchfully. They both added 38 runs together to the Australian total before rain stopped play and stumps was declared. The Australian total at the end of Day 3 read 236/6 with Handscomb 28 and Cummins 25 still at the crease. For India, Kuldeep was the leading wicket-taker with 3 wickets. Australia still trails India by 386 runs, requiring 187 more runs to avoid the follow-on.
What should Australia aim for tomorrow?
Australia would like to reduce the deficit as much as possible and try to avoid the follow-on mark. Since the pitch is still a batting track, if they are asked to follow-on then Australia should try to bat as long as possible and try to go for a draw by playing defensive cricket through negating the Indian bowlers carefully and watchfully. If they play the way they did in the first innings, which is playing in an attacking way, then Australia will definitely lose as they will lose wickets while trying to attack.
What should India aim for tomorrow?
India should try to dismantle the tail-enders cheaply, and should then ask Australia to bat again. They should keep fielders closer to the inner-circle, allowing Australian batsmen to go over the top. This would certainly allow them to get wickets and thus inch closer to victory.
Whatever the result will be in this test match, one thing is for sure that India won’t lose the game and would hence win a series in Australia for the very first time. It all depends upon Australia now, whether the series ends in 2–1 in India’s favor or 3–1.