Sydney Test: India top-order fights it out but Australia in command

Rohit Sharma struck a half-century as India got off to a solid start in its second innings; it still has a mountain to climb on the fifth day in Sydney.

Josh Hazlewood appeals for the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara would be key to India's chances of saving the Test on Day Five. - AP

Cheteshwar Pujara was left to summon his trademark doggedness with skipper Ajinkya Rahane after India lost its openers in pursuit of an improbable 407 on the fourth day of the third Test against Australia in Sydney. It sets the stage for an intriguing final day in which the visiting team will primarily try to bat out three sessions.

Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary

Having drawn flak for his 50 off 176 balls in the first innings, none would mind such an effort from India’s Test specialist after the visiting team finished the fourth day on 98 for 2, thanks largely to a 71-run opening partnership between Rohit Sharma (52) and Shubman Gill (31).

Rohit’s untimely dismissal towards the end of the day, trying to pull Pat Cummins, did hurt India but two of India’s best defensive players - Pujara (9 batting off 29 balls) and skipper Ajinkya Rahane (4 off 14 balls) - were at the crease when stumps were drawn.

AUS v IND, 3rd TEST, DAY 4 - AS IT HAPPENED

With the pitch having variable bounce and dark patches acting like snake pits for Nathan Lyon, India faces an uphill task on the final day.

Both Rohit (52 off 98 balls) and Gill (31 off 64 balls) showed admirable application under pressure but most importantly didn’t let the bad deliveries go unpunished. The three cover drives off Rohit’s blade and a cross-batted straight drive of Gill were out of top drawer.

Rohit, for good measure, pulled Cameron Green over midwicket for a six and they both looked comfortable while negotiating the Australian attack.

Rare occurrence

It was after 53 years that an Indian opening pair had struck two 50-plus partnerships in the same Test Down Under. It was in Sydney where Farokh Engineer and Syed Abid Ali had a decent outing albeit in a lost cause.

It took a peach of a delivery from Josh Hazlewood (1 for 11 in 8 overs), coming for his second spell, to get rid of Shubman Gill. The ball straightened after pitching and the resultant nick ended an impressive 71-run stand.

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Pujara, just after coming in, successfully asked for a DRS review after being adjudged leg before.

A delectable chip shot coming down the track off Lyon helped Rohit bring up his half-century but his dismissal in the next over left fans yearning for more.

Australia hardly put a foot wrong during the two sessions that it batted.

Fifties for Smith, Labuschagne, Green

Steve Smith (81 off 167 balls) missed out on a second hundred but rookie Cameron Green flayed a hapless Indian attack with a well-made 84 off 132 balls that had four sixes. They declared at the stroke of tea, having scored 312 for 6.

Marnus Labuschagne (73 off 118 balls) once again batted positively during his second century partnership of the match (103 runs) with mentor Smith, who employed a more cautious approach.

The butter-fingered Indian fielders also didn’t help the bowlers’ cause as Hanuma Vihari, vice-captain Rohit and Rahane missed regulation catches at square leg, slip and gully respectively.

While R. Ashwin (2 for 95 in 25 overs) can take solace in the fact that he denied Smith a hundred with a successful review, he would be the first to admit that he was well below his best during the match.

Green, the 6 feet 7 inch gentle giant, was cautious but didn’t let the loose deliveries get away and the six off Siraj (1 for 90 in 25 overs) over widish mid-on gave a glimpse of his quality. As if to show that he can do it repeatedly, he muscled another one off the same bowler in the same region and then again into the Cow Corner for fun.

Worse was in store for Siraj as he faced another round of racial abuse which led to ejection of six Aussie spectators and a formal apology to the team from the home board.

The final session was marginally better for India but it’s still a long way to go before Rahane will be able to heave a sigh of relief.

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