Melbourne: India closed in on a big win by reducing Australia to 138 for five at tea on day four of the third Test here on Saturday. India have set the hosts an improbable target of 399 after declaring their second innings at 106 for eight at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
At the break, Travis Head (29 not out) and Tim Paine (1 not out) were the unbeaten batsmen, with Australia 261 adrift of the target. Post lunch, Usman Khawaja (33) and Shaun Marsh (44) came out playing attacking shots and the scoring rate peaked at its highest for the duration of this Test.
The duo added 30 runs for the third wicket as India went on the backfoot a bit, and were waiting for breakthrough to come along. It did as Mohammed Shami (1-32) trapped Khawaja lbw in the 21st over, but the batsman went for DRS review. It stayed in India’s favour as he was too far back in his crease and was out plumb.
Shaun Marsh though continued to play his aggressive strokes and added 51 runs with brother Mitchell Marsh (10), as Australia crossed 100 in the 37th over. Looking good for a tall score, Shaun Marsh was unlucky to be given out lbw against Jasprit Bumrah (2-22) in the 33rd over. He went for DRS review as well and the ball was shown clipping the stumps only marginally, thus out on umpire’s call.
Mitchell Marsh looked to attack Ravindra Jadeja (2-63) but it didn’t work as Australia lost a third wicket in this session. He mishit the ball straight to Virat Kohli at extra cover in a bid to clear the ropes. Earlier, Australia were placed at 44-2 at lunch after India declared at 106-8 in their second innings with Pat Cummins taking career-best figures of 6-27.
Needing to bat five and a half sessions to save the match, Australia didn’t get off to the best start as Aaron Finch (3) edged Bumrah to second slip in the second over. Mayank Agarwal couldn’t latch on to a tough chance at short leg off Khawaja three balls later otherwise it would have been an even poorer start. The batsman then added 27 runs for the second wicket with Marcus Harris (13). The duo checked their shot selection, even as India wasted a review against Khawaja in Jadeja’s first over.
The spinner struck in the 10th over though as a bat-pad chance got stuck under Agarwal’s arm at short leg and Harris had to walk back, causing further trouble for Australia. Earlier, India had batted 52 minutes and extended their second innings from overnight 54-5 even as threat of rain loomed large. Play started on time though and India were batting with a plan to reach the 400-lead mark as quickly as possible.
Mayank Agarwal (42) opened up with a couple sixes off Nathan Lyon (0-40) and made intentions clear, but was bowled off Cummins before he could get a second half-century in his maiden Test. Rishabh Pant (33) and Ravindra Jadeja (5) threw their bats around to add 17 runs. They didn’t waste time in farming strike, with Cummins missing out on his five-wicket haul when Tim Paine dropped Pant early in the session.
He returned to pick up his sixth wicket when Jadeja gloved a catch to gully, beating his previous best of 6-79 against South Africa back in 2011. India declared with Pant’s dismissal in the 38th over. The visitors had scored 443-7 decl. in the first innings thanks to Cheteshwar Pujara’s 17th Test hundred. Jasprit Bumrah then picked career-best figures of 6-33 as Australia were bowled out for 151 runs in reply on day three, conceding a 292-run lead. The four-match series is level at 1-1 after India won the first Test in Adelaide by 31 runs and Australia claimed the second Test in Perth by 146 runs.