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The fourth day of the ICC World Test Championship Final 2023 saw Australia add quick runs in the first half of the day and declare their second innings at 270 for eight. Losing their top three in the chase, India were 164 for three in pursuit of a mammoth target of 444 at the end of day's play.
India went into the morning session with the twin objective of keeping Australia’s scoring rate in check, while also inflicting further damage to their wickets column.
Disciplined bowling ensured that Australia didn’t run away with their lead in the first hour of play, scoring at 2.35 runs an over. Umesh Yadav also brought success in the form of Marnus Labuschagne (41). He bowled a beautiful delivery that jagged slightly away from Labuschagne's bat, and the Queensland batter ended up giving an outside edge towards first slip, where Cheteshwar Pujara safely pouched it.
Though India accounted for Cameron Green, who was bowled by Ravindra Jadeja in the second hour, some purposeful batting from Alex Carey ensured that Australia scored at an improved run rate of 3.75 and steadily furthered their grip over the Test.
At lunch the batting side were 201 for the loss of six wickets, with an overall lead of 374 runs.
The second session saw Australia turn up the heat yet further on India's bowlers. Carey used good support from Mitchell Starc to help Australia’s lead speed past 400. The duo added 93 runs from 120 balls for the seventh wicket, a partnership that featured 13 boundaries.
Australia declared after Starc and Pat Cummins fell in quick succession to Mohammed Shami while going for quick runs. Alex Carey, unbeaten on 66, was the highest run-scorer in the third innings as Australia finished at 270 for eight, setting India a target of 444 runs.
The daunting task of chasing this formidable score became even more challenging for Rohit Sharma’s men in context of the ground’s history: Their ask was more than the highest-ever fourth innings total in a Test at The Oval.
The above-mentioned total was achieved by Srinivas Venkataraghavan’s India in 1979, when they finished at 429 for eight, nine short of their target of 438, in a drawn Test against England.
Like their first outing, openers Rohit and Shubman Gill were proactive at the start of India’s innings. The batters unfurled a series of attractive punches, pulls and drives to help India go at nearly run-a-ball for the first seven overs. Australia had their first success when Gill edged a Scott Boland delivery to Green in the Gully region, and the all-rounder grasped it just before the ball touched the ground. India walked back at 41 for one at the end of the second session.
Despite this setback, India didn't alter their approach at the start of the third session. Rohit and Pujara punished any loose delivery from the bowlers and kept the run rate close to four for the first hour.
Just like in the first innings, the introduction of off-spinner Nathan Lyon brought a breakthrough for Australia. Rohit was trapped lbw when he tried to go for a sweep in Lyon's very first over and ended up missing one which straightened and hit the pads. In the very next over, Pujara fell when he tried to uppercut a Cummins bouncer and got a toe edge which deflected to Carey's gloves.
The repair job fell to Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. The experienced duo helped rebuild the India innings with a confident 71-run stand for the fourth wicket. Kohli wasn't afraid to go for his shots from the very start, whereas Rahane focused on holding the other end.
With all results possible, play will start at 10h30 local time on Sunday morning.