62nd over: India 179-3 (Pujara 29, Pant 59) Pant pushes an early run to point from Lyon. Australia having to go some Plans B & C now. Two short legs in for Pujara against Lyon, who changes to over the wicket for one ball, then changes back and goes around. Wants to draw that edge into pad. But Pujara does not misread the line of the ball once in this over. What a player Pujara is. He’s faced 117 balls now. They’re down to 70 overs left, and 222 runs behind, the Richie Benaud.
61st over: India 178-3 (Pujara 29, Pant 58) Starc to Pant, short, fended away without alarm for a single to the leg side. Starc comes around the wicket to Pujara, left-hander to right-armer, an approach that Starc enjoys when he gets the ball to reverse. We’ve seen him absolutely demolish a couple of line-ups doing this, in Galle against Sri Lanka and in Durban against South Africa and in Melbourne against Pakistan, most notably. Can reverse it away from the edge to get nicks, or inwards to hit stumps. It’s not really swerving for him today though. Pujara picks up a couple of runs clipped behind square leg, his spot, no matter how well it’s guarded.
60th over: India 175-3 (Pujara 27, Pant 57) Lyon is going to come back and try again. Bowling to Pant. And he’s dropped first ball! For once Pant doesn’t attack, he defends from the crease and Lyon rags it from the rough, takes a fine edge up high on the outside edge, and I think that went low straight into Paine’s leg rather than glove. Lyon has had Pant nicking twice today. After a few balls Pant whacks one through point for a run, then Pujara draws the most unrealistic appeal of the day after a ball comes off the flap of his front pad, outside leg stump, about a foot from his bat, but Lyon and Wade want to ask if there was a catch.
59th over: India 174-3 (Pujara 27, Pant 56) Paine turns for variety to Cameron Green, who bowled a couple of overs last night and now gets his third. Very tall, can be quick, comes around the wicket to Pant and gets a decent line going, in at the batsman from a wide angle. Pant jabs a single eventually to midwicket, Pujara just outlasts the final couple of balls.
58th over: India 173-3 (Pujara 27, Pant 55) Four more! Starc to Pant, who hops and jabs a cross-bat shot on the bounce to backward point, where it eludes gully and rolls to the boundary to start the next over. That had angle across the batsman, and the next bouncer doesn’t, but Pant calmly hooks it away for one run. To the right-handed Pujara, Starc keeps straying down leg side.
Fifty! Pant 50 from 64 balls
57th over: India 168-3 (Pujara 27, Pant 50) Lyon to Pant, who comes down the track and drives six over cover! Absolutely nailed that one, right out of the middle after getting right to the pitch, first ball of the over. Goodness me!
Second ball? Goes again! Long on this time, closing the face of the bat to loft it leg-side. It soars away! He follows up by cutting a single for his half-century. That’s 45 from his last 30 balls. And 34 from three overs against Lyon, in a concerted attack. Pant does not want to let Lyon dominate the last day, and so far it’s working!
Pujara walks down to defend, steps back to defend, drives to defend. India need 239 to win. If Pant lasts another hour like this, maybe the runs required to win won’t be notional after all. Probability says the wicket will come…
56th over: India 155-3 (Pujara 27, Pant 37) Little milestones for India, they’ve batted through an hour and a half this morning and only lost one wicket. Their reward is to face Mitchell Starc. He starts off down the leg side, as is his style to start with, which usually means a perfect yorker isn’t far away. Not this time though: five balls that are all either leg stump or outside, then one that’s too wide outside off.
55th over: India 155-3 (Pujara 27, Pant 37) Ah, now Lyon has been swung around to the Paddington End. So he will perhaps try to bowl in tandem with Labuschagne, and confuse Pant with the differing styles of spin. And they’ve changed tactics too, with the bat-pad catcher on the off side rather than the leg, to get in Pant’s eyeline and interfere with his footwork. Pant battles out the over, hesitant to use the feet in case a ricochet goes to that close fielder, either for a catch or a run out. Survives, but looks edgy. This is tense!
54th over: India 155-3 (Pujara 27, Pant 37) Curious that Lyon hasn’t been swung around to the other end or anything, it’s just a straight swap of him for Labuschagne. Admittedly he turns the ball a long way from around the wicket bowling outside Pant’s off stump, but Pant just helps it around the corner for a single. For Pujara, the right-hander, the bowler is back over the wicket, with a slip and a bat-pad on the off side. Pujara isn’t fussed, he just shuffles away from the line and directs it through cover for one. Pant gets a low full toss but can’t put it away, then drives straight to a deep-set cover and can’t run, but gets the final ball to long-on for a single.
53rd over: India 152-3 (Pujara 26, Pant 35) Hazlewood to Pant now, first ball of the over, and Pant edges for four! Big drive, big edge, and Australia only have one slip in at this point. Smith dives as large as he can, but he can’t be a third slip from first. Hazlewood is the next victim of the third umpire’s no-ball camera from the next delivery, then he bangs one in and Pant takes on the short ball, pulling for three to midwicket as Pucovski runs around in the deep to save with a tumble and a heavy landing.
India have got their overs required under 80, their score past 150, and they’re 255 short of a notional win.
Colum Fordham emails in. “I think I like the mindset of the Indian batsmen. Calculated aggression on the part of Pujara and outright bravado from Pant. At least, they’re sending out a positive message. Lyon’s bowling beautifully and I’m sure Starc will come into the action soon enough. I’d love to wake up tomorrow morning and find that Pujara had carried his bat and braved out the last overs with Jadeja but suspect that might be wishful thinking. Really appreciated the article by Bharat Sundaresan. Siraj is a brave and gifted young cricketer.”
52nd over: India 144-3 (Pujara 26, Pant 28) This is interesting, Labuschagne is getting a bowl. His part-time leg breaks. Paine perhaps hoping to tempt Pant into even more indiscretions. They’ve got enough in the bank to buy him out. But Pant squeezes out a single first ball and gets off strike, and Pujara takes the rest of the over. The first ball is also retrospectively ruled a no-ball for overstepping, and the seventh of the over costs Labuschagne as he bowls a low full toss. Even Pujara isn’t going to pat that back, he’s been decisive today when he has decided to attack. So he uses his feet and drives it crisply along the ground though long-on for four. Classy.
51st over: India 138-3 (Pujara 22, Pant 27) Hazlewood keeps attacking the stumps and the body, and Pujara does squeeze a ball away not to far from Labuschagne at short leg. Once again that fieldsman is the most excited about everything, appealing in a raucous solo after Pujara presses forward to defend and misses the ball by about six inches. But when the ball is straight Pujara defends immaculately, back foot and then front. He has been so impressive in the last few overs against some top-drawer stuff. He ends another maiden by squeezing a ball off the inside portion behind square, where Warner dives to field.
50th over: India 138-3 (Pujara 22, Pant 27) There are two big footmarks creating rough patches outside Pant’s off stump, and Lyon is trying to land the ball in them. He drops short though, and Pant smacks him through point for four. That’s a decent shot, out of the middle. Unlike the next one, which is sliced down the ground for four more. He charges it and goes for the long-on shot again, but gets a huge leading edge. He has the fortune that it gets some distance rather than going straight up, and that it slices dead straight rather than carrying to long off, who is back with mid on up to tempt those shots. The wicket’s in the mail if he keeps pushing this envelope. He’s taken 21 from Lyon’s last two overs.
49th over: India 130-3 (Pujara 22, Pant 19) Another run to start the next over, Pant dropping one to cover and Pujara calls him through, Pant a second slower to get moving and that nearly costs him as the throw comes in at the non-striker’s end with the batsman at full stretch. It misses. Slip, gully, point, cover, mid on, forward square, short leg, backward square, long leg for Pujara. He goes under a bouncer, then leaves one angling in at off stump but missing, and plays the one angling in that was on line. Great judgement from Che. He’s faced 75 balls thus far.
48th over: India 129-3 (Pujara 22, Pant 18) Lyon to Pant, and Pujara would love to get the left-hander off strike I reckon. Pant plays a bad shot, a forcing off-side drive that he misses as the ball turns past the edge. Didn’t turn as much as others, and thus he nearly nicks it. Pujara has a word, maybe saying play to leg. So Pant does exactly that: rocks back to pull two runs away through midwicket, then advances to chip four runs over mid-on, then advances to clout six more over long on! Pant really going for it – how long is this approach sustainable? Plenty of runs for Australia to play with. Sixth ball of the over, Pant goes back to the off side, driving through cover and a little airily there as well, for another run. 13 off the over.
84 overs left, and 277 runs the deficit.
at 12.06am GMT
47th over: India 116-3 (Pujara 22, Pant 5) Hazlewood to Pujara, and El Che does what El Che does best: he exists. Immovable. Has to play every ball of the over bar the bouncer.
46th over: India 116-3 (Pujara 22, Pant 5) Lyon will bowl all day. Pujara backs away and cuts fine of the gully fieldsman, who has to run around to the ball and thus gives them time for a quick single. Pant sees out the next four balls.
Meghan Purvis emails in. “Thanks for the link to Bharat Sundaresan’s article; it was an insight into something a lot of us have seen but not experienced directly. I admire Siraj’s courage, but am so disheartened by the need for it. To lean into the stereotype of Americans making everything about themselves – but justified in this instance, I think – we’ve just illustrated for the world what happens when you placate racism; it’s a gallows at the heart of your country.”
45th over: India 115-3 (Pujara 21, Pant 5) Hazlewood on for Cummins, and the Australians are fielding really well today. Hazlewood himself had a great stop at mid-off a few overs ago. This time Green dives at gully to save another steer from Pant, then Wade at cover dives across to grab a ball one-handed on the bounce. Their efforts keep Pant on strike for the entire over, which their bowler would absolutely love. A maiden.
44th over: India 115-3 (Pujara 21, Pant 5) Lyon sends down a maiden to Pujara, lots of loop, lots of turn, spinning it into the pad, and thinks about reviewing a not-out lbw hitting very wide of the stumps when Pujara isn’t playing a shot. No review. The projection says it might have clipped the outside of off stump. It’ll be a brave umpire to put up the finger for one of those. But Lyon is getting serious turn.
43rd over: India 115-3 (Pujara 21, Pant 5) Cummins to Pant, but not for long as the batsman clips a run to square leg. Pujara produces another straight drive and beats mid-off to pick up three. The deficit is 292.
42nd over: India 111-3 (Pujara 18, Pant 4) Lyon to Pant, who forces square on the off side. Wants a run but he’s hit it straight to Cummins and gets sent back. He’s playing on the back foot to Lyon a lot, getting back to defend off the pitch. Playing very straight. Eventually goes for a cut shot from the last ball and gets it just backward of point, making time to get through for a sharp run.
41st over: India 110-3 (Pujara 18, Pant 3) Cummins bowling to Pujara, who gets an edge into his pad that falls down. A few close calls already. Pujara sees out the maiden, getting to leave a few outside the off stump, as is his preference. Another over down, only 91 to go.
40th over: India 110-3 (Pujara 18, Pant 3) Lyon to Pant, the left-hander, and a catch is missed behind the stumps. Pant pushes hard on the front foot, the ball spins away and takes a thick edge. It flies fast at Paine and hits the outside of his left glove before he has time to react, and bounces down rather than up to Smith at slip. Pant very carefully blocks out a maiden over, playing from the crease.
39th over: India 110-3 (Pujara 18, Pant 3) Cummins to Pant, who tries that steer again but this time a diving stop from Green at gully denies him a run. He blocks a couple, ducks a bouncer, then takes on the short ball, badly. Plays a little half-pull shot, just places the bat there, gets the toe end, and it flies like a one-winged bird out to square leg. The man in the deep can’t get far enough in from the boundary in time to catch it. A fortunate run results.
India trail by 297.
38th over: India 109-3 (Pujara 18, Pant 2) Pujara using his feet a lot against Lyon. Comes down the track a couple of times to defend, then Lyon starts zinging the ball through faster and Pujara goes back a couple of times, before shuffling forward to kick a couple away well outside the off stump. Lyon looks a real handful already, he was at Pujara every ball of that over with men around the back.
37th over: India 109-3 (Pujara 18, Pant 2) Lovely from Cheteshwar Pujara! Steps forward to Cummins and silkily hits the straight drive down the ground for four. Just past the bowler. Now that’s a shot. Glides a run to backward point, then Pant runs the ball away to third man for his first two runs. India’s deficit comes under 300.
at 11.20pm GMT
36th over: India 102-3 (Pujara 13, Pant 0) The over started well for India, with Pujara advancing a couple of times to Lyon and driving him through midwicket for three. That raised the team ton. Then Rahane falls. And in an interesting move, Rishabh Pant has been promoted in the order. Perhaps India want to hold back Vihari as a more defensive option. Perhaps they want to give him a better chance to get into the game later given he’s short of runs. Perhaps Pant’s painkillers are going to wear off and it’s better to use him early in the day. Anyway, here he is. An attacking player. Watch this space.
at 11.21pm GMT
WICKET! Rahane c Wade b Lyon 4, India 102-3
The early wicket falls! All of India’s overnight hopes sag along with it, as the stand-in captain goes. Nathan ‘Nathan’ Lyon in his first over the day, always with the idea that the spinner should take wickets on day five, and after a wicketless match so far he gets career victim 395 at last. Pretty straightforward, he bowls an off-break with lots of loop, Rahane doesn’t time his forward defensive press, he’s too early on it and it takes a thick inside edge that goes directly to short leg, travelling fast but Wade holds it.
35th over: India 99-2 (Pujara 10, Rahane 4) Cummins to start the day, with a very leg-side field for Pujara. Midwicket, forward square leg, short leg, leg gully, long leg. Yeesh. Also a slip and a gully looking for catches on the off side. Pujara blocks, blocks, and then one keeps low! Already. He tries to duck a short ball and it doesn’t get up. It hits his forearm guard, and a bit of his arm as well, and skews away. That’s not what a batsman wants to see third ball of the day. Fifth ball he squirts away through square leg, gasps from the fielders at the hope that might go to hand.
If you’re in the market for a recap of Day 4 with a bit more detail than the usual, Adam Collins and I have you covered with our Final Word daily dose.
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Please read this
The other piece of context around this match, and a most deflating one, is the abuse dished out to some of the Indian players by a few members of the crowd. This was reported on both day two and day three, with the very junior player Mohammed Siraj stopping the match to bring it to the attention of umpires and officials. For a player in his second match it was a remarkable display of fortitude to do that, and it’s desperately sad that he had to do it. Predictably he is already being traduced and undermined by some people in Australia who would prefer to believe that he invented the situation.
To anyone who would like to minimise it, or to anyone who would like to understand it better, the best thing I can do is point you to an extraordinary article written overnight by my cricket colleague Bharat Sundaresan, who moved to Australia a couple of years ago to report on the game here.
Give it a read.
at 10.38pm GMT
Hello cricket friends. We’re ready to do it all from Sydney again, and for one final time. After this the roadshow will move to Brisbane. If Australia win today it will mean a 2-1 lead with India still able to retain the trophy by winning the fourth and final match. If India can hang on for a draw today, it will be 1-1 with both a series win and a trophy to play for.
It’s going to be tough work. India are 98 for 2, a score that is still 309 runs short of a very theoretical target. More importantly their two opening batsmen are gone and the rest of the team needs to bat three sessions to draw. The rest of the team is short one and a half batsmen, too, because Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant were both injured while batting in the first innings. Pant will bat but will be hampered by a very sore elbow, Jadeja won’t bat at all with a badly dislocated thumb (unless perhaps there’s a Graeme Smith kind of situation with a few overs left at nine wickets down).
So that means that the job lies with Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, the pair that was not out overnight. They are India’s most senior batsmen and the ones with the ability to bat long. If they can do so, they’ll create a chance. If one of them falls early, it’s all but over. The runs are out of the equation because the pitch has had variable bounce and has been hard to score quickly on throughout the match. Suddenly dialling up 100 runs a session on the fifth day isn’t going to happen. Survival will be hard with some deliveries keeping low or bouncing higher than expected.
And there’s that knack of Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood to find wickets when they need them, plus the fondness of Mitchell Stac and Nathan Lyon for fifth days. That’s the contest ahead of us.
at 10.30pm GMT
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