With four world class bowlers at their disposal, India will look to beat the Aussies in their own backyard for the first time ever.
NEW DELHI: Indian players must be having a sweet smell of series victory in their nostrils and let’s hope they don’t cloud their path till the last match is done with at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The door to success has been shown by a fearless pack of fast bowlers who have so far hunted the Kangaroos with skill, pace and discipline.
Even the troika of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman could not land India a series victory in Australia due to absence of pacers with the ability of picking 20 wickets. Jasprit Bumrah has become a feared fast bowler in all forms of cricket India has so desperately wished for, where he can bowl out batsmen almost of his own volition. Surprisingly, it is only the batters that have led the country down in overseas series so far.
India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun rightly commented at the post-match press conference: “What makes him so special is because he is so unique (in his bowling action). Maybe the batsmen pick up his balls a little later than which they normally do from a clean action and that makes him so much more potent. Of course, for any fast bowler to be bowling 145 clicks and above consistently over a period of time, you need to generate a lot of speed from your arms.”
On Saturday, some smart and hostile fast bowling left the hosts reeling at 258 for 8 and brought the Aussies to a position where only rain gods can elude India from a victory now in Melbourne. The home side has a mountain to climb as they are still 141 runs shy of reaching the target.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man! When it looked that the Australians will lay down their arms on Day 4, the tail wagged considerably, thanks to some resistance shown by Pat Cummins (61). This was also his highest score in Tests, and so far in the series he remains the only shining spot in the darker side of penumbra for the Australians.
Cummins now owns his career-best figures of 6-27 before Virat Kohli second innings declaration at 106 for 8 before lunch. Some of his shots were so gorgeously-timed that it left many experts wondering if he should be the one batting up the order. Australia ended the Day 4 with Cummins and Nathan Lyon (6) at the crease.
If Sunday’s forecast is anything to go by, it is only the rains that could now spoil the party at the Indian dug-out. But Indian fans would be happy to know that no team has so far chased more than 332 at the MCG. Australia’s batting struggles has been hurting them for a long time now.
Consider this: Australia has only four individual centuries this year. It does reflect a fine-drawn shift in world cricket after the country dominated the game for years post the mighty West Indies attack.
After the declaration by Kohli, it took India only two overs to thwart the opening partnership as Aaron Finch became the first man to go back to the dressing room. He edged it to Kohli off the man in form Bumrah. Second to go was his partner Marcus Harris who weathered the fast bowlers but was later caught at short leg off Ravindra Jadeja.
Australians were tottering after losing its openers but Usman Khawaja looked confident embarking on reverse sweeps against Jadeja, and stitching a crucial 30-run partnership with Shaun Marsh in the process. He couldn’t occupy the crease for long and was dismissed lbw by Mohammed Shami.
Marsh and Travis Head kept playing shots, trying to undo the damage before Marsh was adjudged lbw. He scored 44. Bumrah took his wicket. Marsh and Head together added 51 runs to the Australian total. Mitchell Marsh tried scoring at a faster rate even hitting Jadeja for a maximum. But he could not last much long and lost his wicket just before Tea break.
India must have started to fancy it chances to win the match on the fourth day itself after Head’s dismissal but Tim Paine, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon chipped in with some useful contributions.
Earlier in the day, India began the day with an overnight score of 54 for five. The tourists made a positive start with debutant Mayank Agarwal and Rishabh Pant at the crease. Agarwal in particular played the role of an aggressor, hitting in-form Lyon for two massive sixes in the same over before losing his wicket to Cummins. With this, Cummins had a five-for to his name.
It was only after Jadeja’s dismissal that India declared their second innings leaving Australia a massive total of 399 to chase.