Adelaide: Indian bowlers once again exposed the chinks in jittery Australian batting line-up leaving the hosts tottering at 104 for 4 in pursuit of a tough target of 323 on the fourth day of the first Test on Sunday. With 219 runs required on a fifth day track, it will be an onerous job for the Australian batsmen, who have been struggling against a consistent Indian attack with their ultra defensive approach.
Ravichandran Ashwin (2-44) and Mohammed Shami (2-15) were impressive during the final session as Australia lost three wickets in Marcus Harris (26), Usman Khawaja (8) and Peter Handscomb (14). At end of play, Shaun Marsh was unbeaten on 31 runs while Travis Head was batting on 11 not out (37 balls).
After tea, Australia had an early reprieve in the 13th over when Cheteshwar Pujara failed to latch onto a tough chance at first slip from opener Marcus Harris (26), then on 14 not out, off Mohammed Shami (2-15). The pacer put up an improved performance as he managed to etch out Harris’ wicket in the 17th over, caught behind.
The big blow to Australia’s dim hopes of winning this Test came when the dogged Usman Khawaja (8) was caught in the deep off Ashwin as he tried to clear mid-off.The mistimed skier was caught by Rohit Sharma, who judged well and dived in-front to take the catch.
Peter Handscomb (14) and Marsh then added 24 runs for fourth wicket in 13.2 overs. The former had a ‘life’ when KL Rahul didn’t latch onto a tough chance at short leg off Ashwin in the 34th over. Three overs later the breakthrough did come when Handscomb hit Shami straight to midwicket and Pujara completed an easy catch.
This was after India lost 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. At tea, Australia reached 28-1 (12 overs). Aaron Finch (11), survived a loud lbw appeal on zero off Ishant Sharma (0-14) on only the second ball of this innings. He went for DRS review and the decision was turned because it was a no ball.
Ashwin though nabbed him before tea, as the ball seemed to have brushed his gloves before looping up for keeper Rishabh Pant to claim an easy catch. Replays showed that Finch had made a mistake not going for the DRS review as there was nothing on snickometer or hotspot.
Earlier, India only added 47 runs for their last five wickets after resumption of play post lunch. Starting from overnight 151 for 3, India made good progress through the first session as Pujara and Rahane ground down the Australian attack 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 main threat came from Nathan Lyon (3-92), who was using the rough on the pitch to trouble the batsmen. Rahane survived an appeal for a catch in the 74th over via DRS when replays showed that the bat was nowhere near the ball.