Bad light forces early stumps, Australia 236/6

Bad light forces early stumps, Australia 236/6

Australia's Marcus Harris hits a boundary during the third day's play of the fourth and final cricket Test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on January 5, 2019. (AFP Photo)

The pitch for the final Test has few devils in it but the Australian batsmen failed to fight off their inner demons even in the best batting conditions yet in this series, trading what looked like a comfortable position for a familiar wobbly situation by the end of the light-affected Pink Day.

Rain was forecast for the day and the dark clouds had started playing hide and seek since afternoon but it started raining only at 4.45 pm after play was stopped at 4.26 pm for light and the expectant sudden thunderstorms. Sensing little chance of resumption, almost the entire crowd of over 36,000 vacated the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday. And it wasn’t long before the day’s play was officially called off.

At stumps on a truncated third day with almost 17 overs to be bowled for the day, Australia were fighting with their backs to the wall at 236 for six in 73.3 overs with Peter Handscomb (28, 91b, 3x4) and Pat Cummins (25, 41b, 6x4) having shared 38 runs for the unbroken seventh wicket. The hosts still trail India by 386 runs with only one specialist batsman left in the line-up. While they warded off the spin challenge from Ravindra Jadeja (2/62) and Kuldeep Yadav (3/71) with grit and plenty of luck, it can be hard to survive too long simply because of the magnitude of the challenge ahead of them.

The pitch is still good for batting if one is willing to put his head down and play but there is some encouragement for spinners as well in terms of turn and bounce, especially for Kuldeep.

Australia, overnight 24/0, enjoyed their best first session of the tour as Marcus Harris (79, 120b, 8x4) put on a fine exhibition of attacking batting, exploiting the open field. The southpaw, who has looked good through the series with his unflustered batting on his debut series, drove and cut the pacers well and used his feet to unsettle the rhythm of spinners.

Jadeja and Kuldeep, however, didn’t change their tactic and kept searching for a breakthrough. And it came in the shape of an over-adventurous Usman Khawaja (27), who had received a reprieve on Friday evening and survived a tough chance on the third morning. The southpaw continued to play his shots and paid the price when he stepped out to Kuldeep but failed to pick the wrong one. His attempt to hit the wrist spinner over mid-off miscued to straight to midwicket where Cheteshwar Pujara took a smart catch.

Marnus Labuschagne (38, 95b, 7x4) and Harris saw Australia to the lunch without further damage but soon after resumption Jadeja struck. Harris’ attempted cut resulted in a bottom-edge which ricocheted off the turf to disturb the bail. Shaun Marsh disappointed yet again, edging a defensive push off Jadeja to Ajinkya Rahane at slip. Labuschagne, who was looking good with his confident defence and drives, fell to a brilliant trap laid out by Virat Kohli.

The Indian skipper brought an extra fielder on the leg, a squarer short-midwicket, and the right-hander flicked Mohammad Shami to that position where Rahane swooped up a brilliant catch as Australia lost four wickets for the addition of 22 runs. And Australia’s misery was complete when Travis Head (20) lost his top with just a few minutes left for tea. The right-hander danced down to hoick Kuldeep over his head but ended up giving a return catch to the bowler with the home side slipping from 122/1 to 192/5 in the second session.

Tim Paine fell in the first over after lunch after being beautifully set up by Kuldeep. The UP wrist-spinner pushed the Australian skipper back by bowling full and flat deliveries before ending the over with a flighted ball that pitched just on the off and turned before going through the gates to rattle the timber. India couldn’t take the new ball as umpires wouldn’t allow fast bowlers to operate in dull conditions, and soon they took light to stop the play which never resumed.

Brief scores: India: I Innings: 622/7 declared in 167.2 overs (Cheteshwar Pujara 193, Rishabh Pant 159 n.o., Ravindra Jadeja 81; Nathan Lyon 4-178) vs Australia: I Innings: 236/6 in 83.3 overs (Marcus Harris 79; Kuldeep Yadav 3-71, Ravindra Jadeja 2-62).

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily