In what seemed for the most part a dominant day for Australia, India battled hard in the final session of the fourth day to reach 98/2 by stumps, but still face the improbable target of 407 for victory.
India weren’t helped by their fielding, Hanuma Vihari dropping a straightforward chance to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne off the second ball of the day. There would be more reprieves handed out to the home batsmen throughout the day, as Australia posted 312/6 declared in their second innings, a mammoth lead of 406.
With Australia declaring their innings at tea, after Cameron Green had scored a 132-ball 84, the Indian batsmen had to see out a whole session. For the most part, it went to plan, with Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill putting on India’s best opening stand in the series so far – their 71-run partnership held Australia at bay for nearly 23 overs.
The duo combined resistance with aggression, overturning a couple of dismissals on the way via the DRS. As far as India were concerned, things would have been ideally placed had the two been able to see through the day unbeaten. Unfortunately, Gill, having looked good for most of his 64-ball knock, edged one behind off Josh Hazlewood.
Rohit was joined by Cheteshwar Pujara thereafter, with the opener increasingly looking fluid and playing his strokes. He reached his half-century with a boundary – his sixth overseas in Test cricket and his first as an opener – but then paid for his enterprise, attempting a pull off Pat Cummins, only to find Mitchell Starc stationed at deep backward square leg.
It meant Ajinkya Rahane, the captain, was in the middle to fend off the last few overs of the day along with Pujara, in circumstances almost similar to what India faced in the first innings. Rahane and Pujara saw through the day without much fuss, but with Ravindra Jadeja unable to bat, India essentially have seven wickets left to battle through day five and eke out a draw.
The day started with Australia asserting their authority. Labuschagne and Steve Smith, who had looked imperious during the final session of the third day, carried on from where they left off, extending their partnership to 103 runs. Labuschagne, overnight on 47, went on to post 73 before edging one from Navdeep Saini to the substitute wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha.
The wicket of Matthew Wade two overs later raised Indian hopes of triggering a slide, but Smith did the real damage at the other end. He went from his overnight 29* to 81, with Green offering good support at the other end. The duo added 60 for the fifth wicket, taking the total past 200, but R Ashwin got his man once again, when Smith missed the turn and was trapped in front.
The hosts were already in a commanding position. It meant their captain Tim Paine could come in and get on the attack, along with the well-settled Green. It was their 104-run stand – off just 116 balls – that really deflated Indian hopes, and put Australia in a position from which they have a realistic chance of taking an unassailable 2-1 lead.
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