Sydney, January 10
Cheteshwar Pujara was left to summon his trademark doggedness with skipper Ajinkya Rahane after India lost their openers in pursuit of an improbable victory target of 407, setting the stage for an intriguing final day of the third Test against Australia.
Consider this — a target of over 400 has been successfully chased in Test cricket only four times in over 143 years of Test cricket; a victory target of over 300 has been chased only five times in Australia; India have scored over 300 runs in the fourth innings of a Test in Australia only five times — and lost all five times.
Victory tomorrow, thus, is more or less out of the question. The question is — can the visitors bat out three sessions tomorrow to save the match? That seems very unlikely, especially with Ravindra Jadeja having fractured his left hand thumb.
Pujara was criticised in some quarters for his 50 off 176 balls in the first innings, but no one would mind a repeat of that effort tomorrow. India finished the fourth day on 98/2, after a 71-run opening stand between Rohit Sharma (52) and Shubman Gill (31).
Rohit’s dismissal at the fag end of the day, as he pulled Pat Cummins straight to the man at deep square leg boundary, badly hurt India.
The pitch, with variable bounce and the dark patches helping off-spinner Nathan Lyon gain turn, would pose challenges tomorrow.
Both Rohit (52 off 98 balls) and Gill (31 off 64 balls) showed admirable application under pressure, and didn’t let the bad deliveries go unpunished. The three cover drives off Rohit’s blade and a cross-batted straight drive by Gill were out of top drawer.
Rohit, for good measure, pulled Cameron Green over mid-wicket for a six and they both looked comfortable while negotiating the Australian attack. It was after 53 years that an Indian opening pair struck two 50 plus partnerships in one Test in Australia. It took a peach of a delivery from Josh Hazlewood (1/11 in 8 overs) which ended the stand — it straightened after pitching and Gill edged it to the wicketkeeper.
Rohit got to 50 with a delectable chip off Lyon, but fell shortly after that. He is in his 34th year and time is running out for him to establish himself as a batsman who makes starts count. — TNS, Agencies