India’s pursuit of history reaches Sydney as Virat Kohli’s men start as favourites against a faltering Australia side in the fourth and final Test starting Thursday in Sydney.

Leading 2-1 in the four-match series, India remain firm favourites to make it 3-1 at the Sydney Cricket Ground despite the fresh injuries woes that has ruled Ishant Sharma out of the match and left R Ashwin in doubt.

Kohli is in a unique position as the only Indian captain to go into the final Test on the Australian soil with the cushion of a series lead.

A series win in Australia will certainly put Kohli on a different pedestal even though the quality of the home team’s batting line-up suffered due to the ball-tampering bans on former skipper Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner.

Kohli will also need to fret over his team combination as the skipper revealed that senior off-spinner hasn’t adequately recovered from his injury despite being named in the preliminary 13-member squad.

With spin considered a traditional factor in any Sydney Test, India were left fretting over the fitness of off-spinner R Ashwin, who is yet to recover from left abdominal strain that laid him low after the first Test in Adelaide.

Ishant is out after experiencing discomfort in his left rib cage and the team management didn’t want to risk him by playing him in the decider.

While Ashwin had played on in Nottingham and Southampton (despite a groin injury as revealed by the team management only at the Oval), he has already missed two Tests - in Perth and Melbourne - in the on-going series.

Here are some statistical nuggets ahead of the final Test of the 2018-19 Border Gavaskar series:

  • Australia have hosted India since 1947-48, and barring three occasions in 1980-81, 1985-86 and 2003-04 which were drawn the visitors have lost the Test series on seven occasions – 1967-68, 1977-78, 1991-92, 1999-2000, 2007-08, 2011-12, 2014-15.
  • India have won only one match at the SCG — when they won the fourth Test of the series in 1978 to level it up 2-2 before losing the final match. BS Chandrasekhar, Bishan Singh Bedi and EAS Prasanna combined to take 16 out of the 20 wickets in that match as India defeated Australia (weakened due to the World Series) by an innings and two runs.
Venue Australia India
Adelaide Oval (including first Test of this series) 77 matches

Won: 40, Lost: 18, Draw: 19 (W/L: 2.222)
12 matches

Won: 2, Lost: 7, Draw: 3 (W/L: 0.285)
Melbourne Cricket Ground 111 matches

Won: 63, Lost: 31, Draw: 17 (W/L: 2.032)
13 matches 

Won: 3, Lost: 8, Draw: 5 (W/L: 0.375)
Sydney Cricket Ground 106 matches

Won: 59, Lost: 28, Draw: 19 (W/L: 2.107)
11 matches

Won: 1, Lost: 5, Draw: 5 (W/L: 0.200)

  • Interestingly enough, the team winning the toss has lost the match more times (46 compared to 41) at SCG than the team calling it right.
  • In the Ashes Test last year, Australia smashed 649/7 in the first innings after bowling out England for 346 in the first innings. Joe Root had won the toss then. England were bundled out for 180 in the second innings.
  • In India’s last match in Sydney in 2015, KL Rahul scored a century as an opener (a spot he’s likely to regain in the upcoming match). It was a high-scoring draw with Australia making 572/7 (decl.) and 251/6 (decl.) after winning the toss and batting first. India made 475 thanks to Rahul and Kohli’s centuries in the first innings and drew the match after scoring 252/7 in their second innings.
  • The SCG is India’s favourite batting venue in Australia historically, as the batsmen average 34.96 per wicket. That’s a good four points higher than at Adelaide Oval.
  • It was, of course, one of Sachin Tendulkar’s favourite hunting grounds. He has scored a whopping 785 runs at the venue, with VVS Laxman behind him with 549 runs. Tendulkar’s 241* is the highest score by an Indian batsman at the SCG. (Incidentally, that is the highest ever score by an Indian batsman across venues in Australia)

Leading Indian run-getters at SCG

Player Matches (Innings) Runs (Average) Highest Score (100s / 50s)
Sachin Tendulkar 5 (9) 785 (157.00) 241* (3 / 2)
VVS Laxman 4 (7) 549 (78.42) 178 (3 / 1)
Rahul Dravid 4 (8) 283 (40.42) 91* (0 / 2)
Sunil Gavaskar 3 (4) 231 (57.75) 172 (1 / 0)
Virat Kohli 2 (4) 225 (56.25) 147 (1 / 0)

  • Kapil Dev holds the record for the most wickets by an Indian pacer in a Test series in Australia — he took 25 during the 1991-92 series, from five matches. Jasprit Bumrah currently has 20 wickets from three Tests.

  • In contrast to the batsmen, Indian bowlers have not exactly had a memorable time at the SCG. Among all the Tests played by India in Australia, it is at the SCG that they have registered their worst average (42.92) and strike rate (84.6).
  • Five times an Indian bowler has registered a five-wicket haul in Tests in Sydney with Anil Kumble leading the pack with a 8-wicket-haul in 2004 followed by 4 in the second. The others to take five in an innings are Kapil Dev, Shivlal Yadav, Kharsan Ghavri and Mohammed Shami.
  • Kumble’s 8/141 in the first innings in 2004 is India’s second best bowling figures in Australia after Kapil’s 8/106 in Adelaide in 1985.

India's leading wicket-takers at SCG

Player Matches (Innings) Wkts 5 wicket-hauls
Anil Kumble 3 (5) 20 1 (One 10 WM)
EAS Prasanna 2 (4) 12 0
Kapil Dev 3 (5) 10 1
Ravi Shastri 2 (4) 10 0
Bishan Singh Bedi 2 (4) 8 0