India vs Australia: Kuldeep, seamers lead India to brink of history

Made to follow on in a home Test for the first time since 1988, Australia was six without loss in its second innings when bad light ended play.

Kuldeep bowled beautifully, mixing his chinaman with his wrong ‘un and the flipper.   -  afp

On a heavily truncated day of cloud cover and rain, India moved closer to its first ever Test series triumph in Australia.

On the final day of the fourth Test at the SCG here on Monday - irrespective of whether the visitor forces a win or the game ends in a draw - India will register a momentous conquest after 71 years of touring Australia.

Made to follow on in a home Test for the first time since 1988 - the host was dismissed for 300 after play commenced following a 190-minute delay - Australia was six without loss in its second innings when bad light ended play.

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Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav, once again a bagful of tricks, collected his first five-wicket innings Test haul. He is a delightful bowler with a quick-arm action and tantalising flight.

Bumrah, Shami impress

The pace bowlers found some assistance on day four. The pitch was covered for a long period which meant there would be some moisture on the surface when play got underway.

This combined with the dark sky made conditions helpful for the seamers. Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were on target.

Although right-arm seamers, both are different. The shorter Shami releases from a lower trajectory and essentially gets the ball to skid off the surface at a sharp pace off a terrific seam position.

The lanky Bumrah sends down his thunderbolts from a high-arm action. When not unleashing those toe-crushers, he hits the deck and can get disconcerting bounce from just short of a good length with his arm speed and wrist position.

Shami struck early with Pat Cummins’ high back-lift coming down late on a back-of-a-length ball that hurried off the pitch, kept a tad low, and rattled the timber.

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Then, it was Bumrah’s turn. The manner Peter Handscomb sets himself up leaves him vulnerable against pacemen. His bat is held high in the air and the back-swing is not always straight. 

Bumrah kept the ball around off, Handscomb played away from his body and his stumps were in a mess.

Kuldeep spins a web

A fine player of spin, Handscomb (37) swept and whipped Kuldeep for boundaries but needs to tighten up against  pacemen.

Kuldeep bowled beautifully, mixing his chinaman with his wrong ‘un and the flipper. A wicket is always around the corner when he operates. 

Nathan Lyon swept over a fuller ball and was trapped in front. Kuldeep now had four scalps.

He would have had his fifth moments later but Hanuma Vihari grassed a skier at mid-wicket to reprieve Josh Hazlewood. The Aussie’s eye lit up after the ball was flighted but it dipped to force the miscue. Vihari hurt his shoulder and his fitness will be assessed.

The left-handed combination of Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood offered some resistance. Starc punched Bumrah through mid-off and then cover-drove Kuldeep.

These are times when Starc appears to have more confidence in his batting than bowling.

Hazlewood whacked Ravindra Jadeja over mid-wicket. The stubborn last-wicket pair brought up the 300 for Australia.

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Kuldeep, though, ended the 42-run association, spinning the ball into the left-handed Hazlewood and winning a marginal leg-before decision.

There was a well-earned pat on his shoulder from an appreciative Kohli and Kuldeep led the team back into the pavilion. The moment will stay with the youngster for long.

Tryst with destiny

Soon the Aussie openers were back. And they were tested by Bumrah and Shami.

Bumrah got one to climb and hit Marcus Harris on the knuckles. It was a painful blow and the ball nearly ended up in gully’s hands.

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And Shami steamed in to bowl with speed and control. He zoned in on Usman Khawaja’s off-stump, taking the ball away from the southpaw.

The final day, if the weather improves, should be engrossing. But then, the pitch will not break up since there was hardly any heat or sunshine here on Sunday.

In any case, India will keep its date with history on Monday.