India are close to a famous win in Australia at the end of the fourth day of the first Test on Sunday, as the hosts are tottering at 104/4 in pursuit of a tough target of 323.
With 219 more runs required on a fifth-day track, it will be an uphill task for the jittery Australian batsmen, who have been struggling against a consistent Indian attack with their ultra defensive approach.
Meanwhile, the Australian target would have reminded some fans of the heartbreak last time around. Four years ago, India fell short of victory by just 48 runs despite a Virat Kohli masterclass in both innings.
While Ravichandran Ashwin was once again vital for India with figures of 2/44 in 19 overs, this was the time for Mohammed ‘Second Innings’ Shami to shine as he captured 2/15 in nine overs. The Indian bowlers were particularly impressive during the final session as Australia lost three crucial wickets in Marcus Harris (26), Usman Khawaja (8) and Peter Handscomb (14).
Incidentally, debutant Harris had made the exact number of runs in the first innings as well.
With most of the top order back in the hut, Australia’s slim hopes rest on Shaun Marsh who was unbeaten on 31 runs (92 balls) and Travis Head who was batting on 11 not out (37 balls).
While the elder Marsh has never made a half-century in the fourth innings of a Test, Head had top-scored in the first innings with 72. Could things change for Marsh, who has been woefully out for form? Well, there is evidence to suggest so.
Earlier in the day, India didn’t completely press their advantage, losing five wickets for 25 runs in the post-lunch session to set a 323-run target. The visitors were bowled out for 307 (106.5 overs) in their second innings thanks largely to some atrocious shot selection from the lower-middle order.
Nathan Lyon was the standout bowler once again with figures of 6/122. The Australian off-spinner was made to toil but has persevered to get his own set of records, continuing his rich vein of form against India.
On Saturday, he made Kohli his bunny and on Sunday, Lyon showed once again why he is a perpetual thorn in India’s flesh using the rough off the pitch to good effect.
But before the lower-order collapse, India made good progress through the first session as Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane ground the Australian attack down with an 87-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
Pujara started on a positive note with successive fours early in the day’s play. India’s 200 had came up in the 77th over while their 50-partnership came off 103 balls and Pujara reached his 20th Test half-century off 140 balls while Rahane had opened up to play pull strokes off the pacers against the new ball and reached his 16th Test half-century off 111 balls.
- Pujara faced 450 balls in this match, the second-most for an Indian batsman in a Test on Australian soil after Sachin Tendulkar (525 at Sydney, 2004).