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6.03pm local/12.33pm IST: Stumps
Australia end the third day 197 ahead, with eight wickets in hand, and both Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith looking at their pristine best as they pick apart India’s insipid – and temporarily depleted – bowling attack in the final session. India’s day hasn’t ended too far from where it had begun in terms of the deficit, but a collapse of 6 for 49 at the end of their innings and the ease of Australia’s scoring in the final session has pushed them decidedly behind in the match. The relentlessness of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood was responsible for that, as they were bowled out for 244, 94 short of Australia’s first innings score, while also losing the immediate services of Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja who were both hit on their hands by bouncers and went off for scans. A long day ahead tomorrow on a progressively misbehaving pitch.
5.10pm local/11.40am IST: Leg trap today
India have stuck to their guns in terms of bowling strategy, with four fielders in the leg-side infield and a slant into the stumps. But that restrictive strategy has gone the opposite way and played right into Labuschagne’s hands so far. This is his wheel on 34 off 44. Four boundaries through the square leg region tell the story. The execution of this plan hasn’t gone well for India today.
Video highlights: Australia trigger India slide to take control in Sydney
4pm local/10.31am IST: Keeping low
Already three balls from Jasprit Bumrah that have kept low so far. His bowling action could be a factor there, of course, but there has been enough evidence since yesterday of the natural variations in this pitch. It also seemed to be turning a lot more, so Ashwin and Jadeja will be key in this innings. That is, whenever Jadeja returns to the field. He is currently off after being struck on the left hand while batting.
3.18pm local/9.48am IST: A lead of 94
WATCH: India suffer three run-outs in the innings
A proper collapse from India then, losing their last six wickets for 49. One thing was clear once Virat Kohli had exited – they needed centuries from either Pujara or Rahane to post reasonably big scores. That came in the last match, it has not in this one. And once again, there’s no getting away with that against Australia. They lasted over 100 overs, but run-scoring seemed easy only for a brief time at the start of Rishabh Pant’s innings. It was back to the grind after lunch, and Cummins and Hazlewood bossed that period. Australia will be dreaming of a scenario where they’re about 200 ahead at the end of the day with eight or nine wickets in hand.
2.22pm local/8.53am IST: Unrelenting Cummins
Cummins has now got Pujara four times out of five innings in this series, and is racking up some sensational numbers.
This series: 5 innings, 129 balls, 19 runs, 4 dismissals
And, as the graphic above will suggest, he’s getting him out pretty much the same way every time. And it’s almost always on the back of ridiculously patient bowling against a ridiculously patient batsman. A bit of help today with the extra bounce, but the plan has been the same all series long. Superb stuff.
WATCH – Pat Cummins jaffa has Pujara caught behind
Here’s Gnasher on Australia’s quick men:
Have Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins just turned this Test Australia’s way? There has been some sensational fast bowling with the new ball. Hazlewood took advantage of a rattled Rishabh Pant after a nasty blow on the elbow from Cummins, the left hander edging to slip, then Cummins produced one of the deliveries of the series, which climbed on off stump, to take the glove of Cheteshwar Pujara who had just moved to a 174-ball half-century. It was the fourth time he had removed Pujara this series (19 runs 129 balls, four dismissals are the full numbers) with his unerring accuracy around off stump. Cummins’ relentlessness is something to behold. Australia will be eyeing a very handy lead now unless Ravindra Jadeja can counterattack.
1.54pm local/8.24am IST: Best buds?
Pujara has played over 1000 balls in 25 innings against Lyon in his career, at an average of 47, and has been dismissed by him ten times.
12.32pm local/7.02am IST: Lunch
Video highlights: Pujara holds fort as India lose two wickets in the first session
India have managed to pick up the scoring rate via Rishabh Pant at the end of that session, and on broader viewing it is not as bad a session as it might have appeared. What made it appear that way, of course, was Australia’s relentless discipline coupled first with uneven bounce and then with India’s own adventures. Rahane had got some runs away in the lead-up to his wicket, which was off a late cut that was always going to be risky on this wicket. It didn’t rise, and he only chopped on. Vihari looked to pinch a single that he realised, very late, wasn’t there. There were inside-edges pinging out of the close-in fielders’ hands, floating over them, and awkward fends. By the middle of the session, there was reverse swing for Hazlewood too, something Glenn McGrath said wasn’t likely yesterday when the outfield was lush. A much sunnier day today and that has helped on the reverse swing front. The immediate tool though, will be the second new ball, which is one over away.
But India also cut the deficit down by 84 with the loss of only two more wickets. Pujara found a way to score off Nathan Lyon after being completely tied up at the start of the day by the pacers. I said at the start of the day that this is the kind of surface he’s grown up on in domestic cricket, and him digging in like this and getting to the second session is also very characteristic. Pant has looked assured too, in attack and defence. Can this yin and yang pair take control in the hour after lunch?
11.56am local/6.26am IST: Ponting’s not surprised…
…by Josh Hazlewood’s incredible fielding efforts. Here’s what he said on Channel Seven:
“I’m actually not surprised. I spent the two weeks with the Aussie boys coming from the IPL in quarantine in Sydney and ran a few fielding drills. Big Josh hit the stumps more than anybody else from that mid-on, mid-off position. The most impressive thing with that bit of fielding, he was actually getting himself set, you can see he was getting set. He knew if he made that run-out he had to pick the ball up on the half-volley to be in a position to release it basically as soon as it gets into his hands. It’s a brilliant piece of preparation before the throw. It hit half way up middle stump as well. It didn’t just glance the stumps, middle stump flush.”
11.49am local/6.19am IST: Chris Rogers on Steven Smith
Here’s more from Gnasher: Everyone will now be talking about that Josh Hazlewood run out, or at least they should be, but I’ve just been listening to some interesting stuff from Chris Rogers on SEN Radio about Steve Smith and his mindset and finding motivation.
“Sometimes the best players, you think they are kind of bullet proof, they have enough self-belief that they wouldn’t care what other people think but actually the inspiration they get is trying to prove people wrong,” Rogers said. “It’s as though they work with this chip on their shoulder and they are consistently trying to prove people wrong. And if you think back to where Steve Smith came from, he was a guy who first got picked as a legspinner, and the amount of energy he has had to put in to turn himself into one of the world’s best batsmen is incredible and says something about him. There’s this unbelievable desire…to show people that he’s one of the best batsmen in the world, if not the best batsman.”
Rogers then recalled a story from the 2013-14 Ashes where Smith had struggled in the first two Test and there were murmurings about his place. He and Rogers went to a hotel in Perth to catch up with some mutual friends…
“He got really emotional and really vulnerable, admitted how hard he was coping with it. He was very upset. I saw a pretty vulnerable young kid. They aren’t bullet proof, these guys. It’s interesting what inspires him. If you look back at the first two Tests where he didn’t quite perform it even seem to us, even in the last Test, that he was a bit flat, didn’t have the same kind of spark. Clearly he’s recognised that and he’s almost ‘how do I create this story that the world is against me’. It’s a bit of that Jose Mourinho idea. I don’t remember people saying he was out of form. It is really interesting, the best in the world, whatever sport you play, whatever you do for work, a lot of the times it’s those little things that inspire you and that’s what keeps driving you.”
WATCH – Rahane chops one on to his stumps off Cummins
11.02am local/5.32am IST: What’s on Paine’s mind?
Here’s Andrew McGlashan on the first hour of play and a little observation at the end of that DRS sequence:
It’s been an interesting first hour to the day. Pat Cummins has made the key breakthrough in another outstanding spell to back up his work from yesterday and there has been plenty of action when Nathan Lyon is in action. Shortly after Ajinkya Rahane’s wicket there was a review for a catch at short leg against Cheteshwar Pujara – reviewed by the Australians – which was turned down. Matthew Wade obstructed the view of the leg-side Hot Spot and there was no evidence Pujara had hit the ball from any other angles. At the end of the process there was clear frustration from Paine when he spoke to umpire Paul Wilson, appearing to suggest he believed there was a spike on Snicko, although the protocols appeared to have been followed correctly. Perhaps a hangover from Paine’s decision when he was batting in Melbourne? It’s already been an interesting match for DRS with yesterday’s appeal against Rahane when he padded up to Lyon and Wilson appeared to have a change of heart as to whether a shot had been played.
10.28am local/4.58am IST: More of the same…and then a wicket
India ended their day making nine off the last ten overs yesterday, and it’s generally acceptable to attribute such a scoring rate to the caution of batsmen trying to bat to stumps. In this case though, it was mostly a reminder of how good this Australian bowling attack is – and that the pitch is showing glimpses of being up and down. And there’s more of exactly that in the opening half hour today. They’ve come with containment plans, with catchers in the leg side and a short-pitched strategy, and some balls kicking up the batsmen. Apart from one half-volley that Ajinkya Rahane has put away, Australia have given nothing away. Only 11 off the first seven overs of the day.
India’s batsmen did cop some criticism for their scoring rate last evening, but Ajinkya Rahane’s wicket – chopping Cummins on, a short one dipping in and getting big off the pitch – was just proof that looking to play attacking shots is just not a straightforward proposition.
9.55am local/4.25am IST: Welcome back!
Even well past the halfway stage of this series, these teams continue to set us up for the best days. A day of ten wickets yesterday, but also a day of 238 runs – figures that show that the quality of bowling has sustained. By the end of the day, Australia used the wickets of India’s openers to their advantage and completely shut off scoring options for Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, who have been greeted by probably the brightest and warmest morning of the Test this morning. It’s also the flattest pitch of any in the series so far. One might even argue that it’s the kind of surface Pujara feasts on. It’s the one thing India haven’t had yet this series, a feast for their No. 3 man. He’ll be well up for this opportunity today and that is challenge number one for Australia’s bowlers.
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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