India hold aces after 15 wickets fall in single day

Last Updated 28 December 2018, 08:44 IST

On what appeared a benign pitch with variable bounce, Jasprit Bumrah breathed fire to singe Australia. The right-arm quick produced his career best figures in an innings as India poised themselves up for their first Test win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground since Sunil Gavaskar’s men defeated Australia by 59 runs in 1981.

In a dramatic final session of play, when eight wickets fell, India retired for the day holding all the aces in their hands despite Australia’s fightback in the last hour of play. After bowling out the hosts, overnight 8/0, for a paltry 151 in 66.5 overs with Bumrah claiming 6/33 in a sensational exhibition of fast bowling, the tourists finished the third day of the Boxing Day Test at 54/5 for an overall lead of 346 on Friday.

Though India lost wickets in a clutch in their second dig as Pat Cummins (4/10) shaved off the cream of their batting in three fiery overs, Australia remained behind the eight ball thanks to their huge 292-run first innings deficit. While it was the right decision to bat again instead of enforcing the follow-on, India’s batting left a lot to be desired. Three batsmen -- Cheteshwar Pujara (0), Virat Kohli (0) and Ajinkya Rahane (1) -- got out playing down the leg as India slipped from 28 for no loss to 32 for four.

Hanuma Vihari had fallen to the same bowler, again to a short delivery, while Rohit Sharma slashed hard to be caught behind the wickets off Josh Hazlewood in a remarkable turn of events. Debutante Mayank Agarwal (28 n.o.), however, looked little flustered and India’s hopes of adding more to their already-substantial lead rest with him.

There has been a lot of criticism of Virat Kohli’s captaincy in the ongoing series, especially after the second Test when he went wrong with the team combination and as well as his on-field tactics. In the third Test, however, the Indian skipper has been spot-on with his moves so far.

He took a big punt with two rookie openers that came off well in the first innings. His declaration of the innings at 443/7 late on second day’s play was timed perfectly. And on Friday, he was brilliant with his field settings and bowling changes. While Kohli was impressive with his captaincy, the bowlers responded brilliantly reducing Australia to 145 for seven by tea.

Having slipped to 53 for three, Australia had recovered well to reach 88 with one ball left for lunch but Bumrah, in a clever piece of bowling, came up with a slow full-toss that Shaun Marsh played too early and missed it completely to be adjudged out lbw. Indian bowlers began from where they had left off at lunch, claiming three wickets while conceding 56 runs in the second session. Bumrah was at it again, castling Travis Head with another ripper -- the ball swinging in late and crashing into the woodwork off Head’s inside edge. Ravindra Jadeja added Mitchell Marsh’s wicket to go with his Usman Khawaja’s scalp. Skipper Tim Paine and Cummins tried to bring some sanity playing out 104 balls but Mohammad Shami ended their resistance.

Post tea, it was all Bumrah’s show as the Gujarat pacer took all the remaining Aussie wickets, bettering B S Chandrashekhar’s figures of 6/52 at the same venue in 1977.

Australia began well with openers Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch looking positive in the first session. The period, however, didn’t last too long when Ishant Sharma had a flicking Finch caught by Mayank Agarwal excellently at silly mid-wicket. It was a smart move by Kohli to bring the fielder there from the cover region. Bumrah soon got into the act, bouncing out a busy Harris who played an ill-advised hook on a pitch with unpredictable bounce. With their tails up, India applied more pressure on the Australian batsmen by introducing Jadeja early in the day sensing Khawaja’s discomfort against spin. And Jadeja didn’t disappoint his captain, by dismissing Khawaja.

Brief scores: India (I Innings) 443/7 declared and 54/5 in 27 overs (Mayank Agarwal 28 n.o.; Cummins 4-10) vs Australia (I Innings; O/n: 8/0): 151 all out in 66.5 overs (Jasprit Bumrah 6-33, Ravindra Jadeja 2-45).

(Published 28 December 2018, 01:49 IST)

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