A frustrated Tim Paine was kicking the ground when he wasted two reviews in the first session, desperate for a breakthrough. The same Paine was heard whistling on the stump mike somewhere through the middle of the second session, visibly pleased with what his bowlers had done, and why not, as Australia bowled India out for 244 after a clinical display from his pace bowlers, picking up a 94-run lead on Saturday (January 9).
Australia took the new ball as soon as it was available after lunch with Mitchell Starc steaming in, pitching the ball up and missing the edge a few times too. Hazlewood from the other end, bowled tight lengths, mixed his lengths well and asked questions in a testing phase for India. Pat Cummins was brought in soon enough to have a go with the new ball, and struck Rishabh Pant on the left elbow with a short delivery after an attempted pull. Pant, who was aggressive before the break, seemed to be in quite a bit of pain and lost all fluency after that hit, eventually taken for scans to adjudge the extent of damage. Pujara copped a blow on his shoulder, but resiliently carried on to get to his half-century – his slowest in Test cricket off 174 balls amidst a fifty-run stand with Pant.
Hazlewood was rewarded for his testing lines, breaking the stand by ekeing out an outside edge off Pant’s bat, who wasted yet another start, departing for 36. It was a delivery just outside off and Pant goes for the booming drive for a thick edge to David Warner at slip. Cummins’s impeccable line bowling around the channel around off forced Pujara to err, sending back both set batsmen in the space of five deliveries. Having bowled towards middle and leg with varying lengths, Pujara pulls the length a tad back, forcing Pujara to play; he got a glove on the way to Paine. It was the fourth time in this series that Cummins got Pujara, against who he has only scored 19 runs in 129 balls with 119 dots.
The pitch had slowed down considerably with uncertain bounce, but Australia’s bowlers weren’t giving anything away. India also, in part, gifted Australia some wickets with three run-outs in the innings with two magnificent direct hits from Hazlewood to get Vihari and Labuschagne to get Bumrah. Australia’s fielders were sharp and didn’t let India get away with any errors with the visitors losing as many as six wickets the session crumbling from 194 for 4 to 216 for 9. India were staring at conceding a large lead, but a very handy stand between Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Siraj for the last wicket took it to under 100. Jadeja was hit on his left thumb and received treatment before Cummins picked up his fourth getting Siraj after the 28-run stand.
If Australia’s batters were criticised in Melbourne for having shown no intent with the bat, letting the opposition get all over them, India followed suit in Sydney. With the runs just trickling in the first session, as Pujara took 100 balls for his 16. Australia’s pacers were right on the money to the overnight batsmen mixing it up nicely while bowling on a good length. They tried to unsettle the batsmen with the short balls given that there was no swing or any movement after India’s slow start to the day. Wade put down a tough chance off Ajinkya Rahane at sort leg, but it was the short-ball ploy that paid off for Cummins who bounced him off one that jagged back in just enough for the Indian skipper to chop on for 22.
It was tough to score in that period with Australia’s leg-side field, making the batsmen work really hard for their runs. The Nathan Lyon vs Pujara battle continued with questions being asked almost every delivery in that phase. Hanuma Vihari and Pujara were in the middle of a defence masterclass as India were barely scoring at two runs an over. Pujara took as many as 101 balls for his first boundary, but upped the ante after getting a few in quick succession. Pujara began using his feet a lot more against Lyon to get to the pitch of the delivery, but Vihari’s needless run-out from a direct hit from Hazlewood at mid off pegged India back.
Brief scores : Australia 338 (Marnus Labuschagne 91, Steve Smith 131; Jasprit Bumrah 2-66, Navdeep Saini 2-65, Ravindra Jadeja 4-62) lead India 244 (Shubman Gill 58, Cheteshwar Pujara 50, Rishabh Pant 36; Pat Cummins 4-29) by 94 runs.