Brisbane, January 17
India were dug out of a hole by two rookies, debutant Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur, on the third day of the fourth and final Test against Australia.
Sundar and Thakur, coming together at 186/6, defied Australia’s superb bowling attack for 36 overs, adding 123 valuable runs. This ensured that Australia’s lead over India was merely 33, a number that was unthinkable when Thakur came in to join Sundar at the fall of Rishabh Pant’s wicket.
Fast bowler Josh Hazlewood finished with 5/57, a just reward for consistently bowling with an impeccable line and length at a brisk pace.
In their second innings, Australian openers David Warner (20) and Marcus Harris (1) put up 21 on the board, extending the home team’s lead to 54 at stumps.
Australia’s lead could have been much more had it not been for the seventh-wicket partnership between Sundar (62) and Thakur (67), who defied and then attacked the rival bowling attack with gusto.
“We knew their bowlers were tiring out a bit so it was a matter of hanging in there for one hour. We knew we probably would be on top if we hung in,” said Thakur.
Symbolising the courage shown by the visitors, here forced to field a second-string XI to due to the absence of Virat Kohli and injures suffered by many first-choice players, Sundar and Thakur mixed caution with aggression to bail their team out of trouble.
Thakur showed intent right from the start, hooking the third ball he faced in his innings, from Pat Cummins, for a six to open his account. If his nine fours were not enough, Thakur bludgeoned off-spinner Nathan Lyon also for a six over long-on to reach his maiden Test fifty in style in only his second match.
Sundar soon reached his maiden fifty in more traditional fashion with a single, though overall he stuck seven fours and one six.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, beginning the day at 62/2, added 43 runs today. Pujara was his usual solid self while Ajinkya Rahane was a bit more adventurous — and lucky too, as he edged the ball through the gap between gully and third slip for boundaries on two occasions.
Pujara (25) fell to a near unplayable delivery by Hazlewood in only his second over of the day. Hazlewood got one to straighten a bit after angling it in, and Pujara could only edge it to wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
Rahane was the next to go, after adding 39 runs with Mayank Agarwal. The Indian captain went for a widish ball that was angled across him by Mitchell Starc, and the ball flew off his bat to Matthew Wade at fourth slip. Rahane had got away with similarly loose shots twice earlier, but this time there was a fourth slip stationed for just this shot.
More trouble was in store for India as Rishabh Pant, after scoring 23 off 29 balls, gave a catch to Cameron Green at gully as he tried to work Hazlewood through that region.
At that stage, Australia were still ahead by 183 runs, and the end seemed near. However, Thakur and Sundar had other ideas.
With rain forecast over the next two days, and Australia desperate for a win to snatch the Border-Gavaskar Trophy from India, the final two days of India’s tour Down Under are going to be intriguing. — TNS, Agencies
AUSTRALIA 1st innings 369
INDIA 1st innings (Overnight 62/2)
R Sharma c Starc b Lyon 44
S Gill c Smith b Cummins 7
C Pujara c Paine b Hazlewood 25
A Rahane c Wade b Starc 37
M Agarwal c Smith b Hazlewood 38
R Pant c Green b Hazlewood 23
W Sundar c Green b Starc 62
S Thakur b Cummins 67
N Saini c Smith b Hazlewood 5
M Siraj b Hazlewood 13
T Natarajan not out 1
Extras: (b 5, lb 7, nb 2) 14
Total: (All out, 111.4 overs) 336
FOW: 1-11, 2-60, 3-105, 4-144, 5-161, 6-186, 7-309, 8-320, 9-328
Bowling O M R W
Mitchell Starc 23 3 88 2
Josh Hazlewood 24.4 6 57 5
Pat Cummins 27 5 94 2
Cameron Green 8 1 20 0
Nathan Lyon 28 9 65 1
Marnus Labuschagne 1 1 0 0
AUSTRALIA 2nd innings
M Harris not out 1
D Warner not out 20
Total: (No wicket, 6 overs) 21
Bowling O M R W
Mohammed Siraj 2 1 12 0
Thangarasu Natarajan 3 0 6 0
Washington Sundar 1 0 3 0