India’s fighting qualities were again on display on a day that started with Australia looking likely to dominate, but ended with them ruing a failure to deliver the killer blow. With Australia needing to win the fourth Test to regain the Border–Gavaskar Trophy, they will begin day four 54 runs to the good and on paper in an advantageous position.
But with rain on the way, and India’s defiance to draw the Sydney Test still fresh in the mind, Australia will fear they are running out of time to set a defendable score, and to bowl India out twice. That they are now hurried is down to India’s middle-order backlash on the third day. When Rishabh Pant fell it reduced India to 186-6, but in Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar the visitors conjured an unlikely alliance that might well have tipped the balance of the series in their favour.
Thakur (67) and Sundar (62) - who prior to this match had a combined experience of a solitary Test - put on 123 runs together, the second highest stand of the series and comfortably India’s best ever for the seventh wicket at the Gabba. And they did it in style, not merely playing for time but sucking confidence from Australia with their daring strokeplay. When Josh Hazlewood took the last wicket to claim his ninth Test five-wicket haul, Australia were relieved more than jubilant.
Australia need runs, lots of them, and they need them quickly on day four. A draw is no good to them. India’s resoluteness, and the weather, stand in their way.
Stumps - Australia 21-0 (lead by 54 runs)
Yet another engrossing day of cricket in this wonderful Test series. Australia might be ahead but day three belonged to India and the pivotal seventh-wicket stand of 123 runs shared by Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar. Australia now need runs. Fast. David Warner looked in good touch prior to stumps and will have a big part to play on day four.
At least we know his groin is fine.
6th over: Australia 21-0 (Harris 1, Warner 20) The final over of the third day and it’s Natarajan to Warner, who leaves when he can and defends when he has to. And even allows himself the luxury of a single to midwicket, handing Harris the honour of facing the last delivery. It’s wide outside off and Harris leaves it for the keeper. That’s stumps.
5th over: Australia 20-0 (Harris 1, Warner 19) Just four overs in and Rahane makes a change, with Siraj making way for Sundar. And why not? He has a president’s name and a Midas touch. Warner cuts behind point for three. Just one over remaining in the day.
4th over: Australia 17-0 (Harris 1, Warner 16) Harris gets off the mark with a single before Warner picks up three more but he didn’t know much about it, driving uppishly and fortuitously in the gap between gully and point.
“Good morning Scott,” writes Steve in Malta. “Something needs updating I feel - 62 - 2??”
Steve in Malta is referring to the scorecard at the top of the page, which is rather out of date. Apologies. We are experiencing “technical difficulties”. Our “best men and women” are working on it. I’m serious.
3rd over: Australia 13-0 (Harris 0, Warner 13) Siraj is far too short to Warner, who plays his first shot in anger over midwicket for four. We see a more cultured Warner next delivery as he leans into a fuller ball and punches Siraj past mid-off for another boundary. And now four more! Siraj changes to around the wicket but is too wide this time as Warner cuts to make it twelve runs in three balls.
2nd over: Australia 1-0 (Harris 0, Warner 1) Natarajan to Warner. Also some swing for the left-armer, away from Warner. Full and wide, Warner reaches for one and gets off the mark with a very quick single to cover. Warner runs hard and dives to make his ground. A ballsy effort from a man with a dodgy groin.
1st over: Australia 0-0 (Harris 0, Warner 0) Siraj with the new ball for India, over the wicket to Harris. Australia can’t afford to simply play out these 10 overs. They need to win this Test match. They needs runs. And rain is on the way tomorrow and Tuesday. A little bit of movement in the air from Siraj, who starts with a maiden.
India 336 all out (trail by 33 runs)
India are not short of character and they showed plenty of it to get close to Australia’s first-innings total, having been reduced to 186-6 earlier in the day. The 123-run partnership for the seventh wicket, shared by rookies Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar, was the defining stand of the innings, and the second-highest from either team this series. Australia now face thirty or so minutes before stumps.
WICKET! Siraj b Hazlewood 13 (India 336 all out)
Siraj knows his way around a bat more than his partner and he sends Hazlewood to the fence with a ramp shot straight out of the T20 textbook. A few inches more and it would’ve been six. And then finally - finally! - Hazlewood bowls straight, taking Siraj’s off-stump to register his ninth Test five-wicket haul. India’s brave, fighting innings is over.
111th over: India 332-9 (Siraj 9, Natarajan 1) Starc again. Natarajan is clearly not in the team for his batting but swinging and missing is fine if the ball isn’t aimed at the stumps. Not sure why Australia are trying to get the edge of this No 11. Starc finally bowls fuller, and nearer the stumps, but Natarajan keeps the left-armer at bay in a maiden over.
110th over: India 332-9 (Siraj 9, Natarajan 1) Hazlewood to Siraj, another five-wicket haul in sight. After, somewhat hilariously, muffing a scoop shot, Siraj takes a single past point before, somewhat miraculously, Natarajan drives past mid-off for a single. Siraj swings with intent to collect two more to end the over which, somewhat bafflingly, did not feature one ball on the stumps. It’s somewhat amazing that Australia aren’t batting yet.
WICKET! Sundar c Green b Starc 62 (India 328-9)
109th over: India 328-9 (Siraj 6, Natarajan 0)
Cummins is rested as Paine turns to Starc to finish off the tail. The move pays instant dividends as Washington tries to guide the ball to third man but succeeds only in picking out Green, who takes a very nice catch low to the ground at gully. Take a bow, Sundar. A quite exquisite debut knock.
WICKET! Saini c Smith b Hazlewood 5 (India 320-8)
108th over: India 326-8 (Sundar 60, Siraj 6)
Hazlewood to Saini, Over the wicket. Two slips, gully, short square, leg gully. Catchers everywhere you look. And Hazlewood works the No 9 over with reward for effort as Saini clumsily edges into the hands of Smith at second slip. Four wickets for Hazlewood. Now deep into the tail. Australia need to finish it in a hurry but honours, for now, go to Siraj, who backs away and almost dismissively cuts over point for four. A similar shot ends the over but this time picks up only two runs.
107th over: India 320-7 (Sundar 60, Saini 5) Looking more comfortable, against the fuller ball at least, Saini steers the first ball of the Cummins over down to third man for a single. Back on strike, Sundar underlines how it is soooooooo his day as he unwittingly deflects a Cummins short ball off his body and, even more unwittingly, looks the other way as the ball trickles past the stumps. The over ends with Sandur turning Cummins off his hip just in front of the fielder at leg gully, Yup, it’s his day alright.
Here’s that Sundar six from the 104th over.
106th over: India 319-7 (Sundar 60, Saini 4) Lyon gets a well-earned rest as Hazlewood returns to the attack. The Cummins strike has clearly lifted the mood of Australia in the field, but more - much more - is needed for the hosts to get back on top. Sandur farms the strike in a maiden over, which importantly for Australia puts Saini back on strike to face Cummins.
I concur. It’s had the lot, not all of it savoury, but it’s had the lot. And it’s not finished.
105th over: India 319-7 (Sundar 60, Saini 4) Saini gets off the mark with a boundary but Cummins is the moral victor as the No 9 fends, quite obliviously, a venomous short ball that speeds off the edge and over the slip cordon. Cummins then beats the outside edge, Saini jumping around his crease like a man under extreme sufferance. Lethal fast bowling from a man doing his utmost to lift his team. India trail by 50 runs.
Yes, this Indian vintage is one to cherish. And to think Kohli isn’t here at the moment.
104th over: India 315-7 (Sundar 60, Saini 0) Paine persists with Lyon instead of opting for pace from both ends. Sundar premeditates an ambitious sweep but fails before getting it right later in the over with a slog version of the shot, hoicking the spinner high over cow corner for a big six. Wonderful shot. Wonderful cricketer on all evidence to date. After all that, it’s time for drinks.
WICKET! Thakur b Cummins 67 (India 309-7)
103rd over: India 309-7 (Sundar 54, Saini 0)
Commeth the hour, commeth Pat Cummins. When Australia need a wicket he’s usually the man and it’s again the case today as he bamboozles Thakur with a lethal off-cutter that takes off-stump. Excellent bowling to entice the drive and strike when his country needed him most. Thakur’s superb knock comes to an end as does the seventh-wicket partnership, which at 123 runs is the second best of any team this series. The over also includes a review as Cummins whizzes a short one past Saini that Paine thinks took the glove, but nothing doing on that front. Two burned reviews for Australia. But, importantly, one breakthrough.
102nd over: India 307-6 (Sundar 54, Thakur 65) Lyon continues into his 27th over. He’s not exactly going through the motions, and he has been remarkably consistent through a long spell, but there is little threat to go with his economy.
101st over: India 307-6 (Sundar 54, Thakur 65) Thakur helps himself to another meaty drive but mid-off is deep and the result is no run from a very good shot. Elsewhere Cummins does very little wrong but very little to suggest a breakthrough is somewhere around the corner.
100th over: India 305-6 (Sundar 53, Thakur 64) A regulation over from Lyon save for the fourth delivery which keeps very low, forcing Thakur to get his bat down in a hurry. What now, Australia? What do you have?
99th over: India 304-6 (Sundar 53, Thakur 64) Starc’s sincere but fruitless spell comes to an end. Cummins takes his place and carries on the short-pitched theme. He gets Thakur hooking but luck is on India’s side as the right-hander skies a top edge over the keeper’s head for four more. That’s the 300 up for India, who now trail by just 65 runs.
98th over: India 297-6 (Sundar 53, Thakur 58) The better this pair get, the luckier they get. A couple of singles pave the way for Sundar to give himself room outside off-stump, miscuing a crude heave but living to fight on as the ball lands safely out of reach of the fielders.
Sundar half-century - 50 off 108 balls
97th over: India 292-6 (Sundar 50, Thakur 56)
And now it’s Sundar’s turn to raise his bat, squirting Starc to mid-off for a quick single. What an assured debut from the man with the presidential name, with both bat and ball. Starc and Lyon are asking questions, no doubt about it, but these two have all the answers.
Thakur half-century - 53 off 90 balls
96th over: India 289-6 (Sundar 49, Thakur 54)
It’s been a stylish innings from Thakur so why not register your maiden Test fifty in style? Dance down the pitch and loft Lyon high over long-on for six? Don’t mind if I do, says Thakur. Sundar then gets in on the act, driving through the covers for four more to take this partnership into triple figures.
95th over: India 278-6 (Sundar 45, Thakur 47) Starc steams in again. India collect four leg-byes as Thakur offers no shot but instead his buttocks to a ball just outside leg. “Worst rule in cricket,” Ricky Ponting says on the telly. No argument here. You don’t play a shot, you should get no runs.
94th over: India 273-6 (Sundar 45, Thakur 46) Lyon again. Another tight, probing over - possibly a little quicker at times - goes for just a single. Again, better from Australia.
Here’s that ripping Thakur cover drive from a few overs back.
93rd over: India 272-6 (Sundar 45, Thakur 45) Starc might have been banished after that shot from Thakur, but he continues. A short square and leg gully back in place, he mostly peppers Sundar with the short stuff but threatens best when he’s fuller, first of all squaring the left-hander up and gaining the edge - which splits slip and gully en route to the fence - before enticing Sundar into a play and a miss outside off. Much better over from Starc. Quicker and with a bit more ticker.
92nd over: India 268-6 (Sundar 41, Thakur 45) Just a single off Lyon’s over. If the India bats have a taste for the faster ball, they have remained circumspect against Lyon. Might be time to bring Labuschagne back on?!
“Anyone wondering why he is called Washington?” asks Fantie Cam. “Heartwarming story ...In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, his father said - “I am a Hindu and come from a very humble family. Two streets away from my home in Triplicane lived an ex-army man called P.D. Washington. Washington was extremely fond of cricket and would come to watch us play at the Marina ground. He took a liking for my game. I was poor and he would buy a uniform for me, pay my school fee, get me books, take me to the ground in his cycle and constantly encourage me.” Normally Hindu kids in Tamil Nadu are named after Gods. Question now is - Who is P.D. Washington?”
91st over: India 267-6 (Sundar 40, Thakur 45) The confidence levels are so high with these two they’re now taking quick singles, the seventh-wicket pair almost mocking Australia with their chattiness and their chirpiness as they cross paths. And oh my lord, if Starc and Australia weren’t bereft of their own confidence they are now as Thakur clamps down his front foot as rockets a cover drive to the boundary. Shot of the day, without question. Possibly the shot of Thakur’s life. Starc trudges back to his fielding position, head bowed. What is going on here?
90th over: India 262-6 (Sundar 39, Thakur 41) Lyon again. It’s a decent enough over, during which Sundar collects a single to mid-off, but the bottom line is Australia can’t buy a wicket at the moment.
“This Indian team has shown something which even the mightiest elevens from the past have not been able to show - grit and gumption,” writes Abhijato Sensarma. “They have had a historical tendency to collapse like a house of cards on foreign pitches against any potent attack. Now, with depleted resources and up against the best bowling side in the world, they’re putting on a show for the ages. They’ve been an inspiration over the past month with their personal stories, stands against racism, and pandemic struggles. Cheers and thanks for the cricket, fellow countrymen!”
Can’t argue with that.
89th over: India 261-6 (Sundar 38, Thakur 41) Finally we see Starc. If there’s any movement in the air, we’ll now find out. First delivery and the ball moves alright - fast across the ground as Thakur drives sumptuously wide of mid-off for four. Two balls later the right-hander goes again, waiting on a shorter ball and swatting it over gully for another boundary. Worrying signs for Australia. Starc can’t get the ball to mumble let alone talk. The life in this pitch looks to be expiring by the minute.
88th over: India 253-6 (Sundar 38, Thakur 33) Lyon continues after tea, around the wicket to the left-handed Sundar. Both protagonists are circumspect - Lyon gently asking the question, Sundar defending well. The first over of the session, which will have 37 in it, is a maiden.
Tea - India 253-6 (trail by 116 runs)
Australia looked to be tracking nicely with the dismissal of Rishabh Pant reducing India to 186-6, but from that point on the second session belonged entirely to the visitors. Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar - with a combined experience of one Test match - put on 67 unbroken runs to the break (a seventh-wicket record for India at the Gabba) and rarely looked troubled, even against the second new ball. Australia still have runs up their sleeve, but with memories of Sydney still vivid, they will be restless until these two are separated.
87th over: India 253-6 (Sundar 38, Thakur 33) Boundaries and more boundaries. Thakur plays possibly the shot of the session, driving Cummins down the ground, before adding four more with a flash outside off that he almost pulls out of, but softens his hands enough to not present a catching chance. Excellent batting. This partnership is now getting out of hand from an Australian point of view. Worth 67 runs in good time, it’s now beyond nuisance value and just what India need. Time for tea.
86th over: India 245-6 (Sundar 38, Thakur 25) Hazlewood continues but there are no catchers near the bat for Thakur. The paceman nonetheless drops one in short, allowing Thakur to fend away for a single. But it looks like it caught him on a knuckle on his left hand, causing a delay as he receives treatment from medical staff. Magic spray nowhere in sight, however. When play resumes, Thakur watches from the non-striker’s end as Sandur clips Hazlewood off his pads for three. What an impressive debut this is becoming for this young man.
85th over: India 240-6 (Sundar 35, Thakur 23) Over the wicket, Cummins gets Sundar playing, and missing, outside off-stump. He then digs one in short but the ball gets up nowhere near as much as anticipated, flying by a surprised Sundar’s helmet. Maiden over.
84th over: India 240-6 (Sundar 35, Thakur 23) Hazlewood continues but, as with Cummins, there is no feeling that a wicket is just a delivery away. Rather than skimming onto the bad, or zipping through to the keeper, the ball is more or less stopping and propping on this slowing deck. That said, these Aussie quicks know how to put their backs into it - and Hazlewood traps Thakur on his crease, looking to have a fair lbw shout if not for that pesky inside edge. The batsman then swings and misses outside off to end the over.
83rd over: India 239-6 (Sundar 35, Thakur 23) Cummins reverts to around the wicket but he can’t stem the flow of runs as Sundar beats gully for a boundary that takes this partnership past 50. Not much happening for Australia with this new ball, other than leaving the bat a bit quicker.
82nd over: India 235-6 (Sundar 31, Thakur 23) No Starc, with Hazlewood preferred by Paine to partner Cummins. Hmmm. Thakur drives at one that’s just short of a half-volley but Hazlewood’s movement off the seam is dreamy and he beats the bat. He can’t follow it up, however, dropping in a but shorter and onto Thakur’s pads, going for a four before again conceding a boundary with one that almost cuts the right-hander in half and also beats the diving Paine before racing to the fence.
81st over: India 227-6 (Sundar 31, Thakur 15) And shock, horror: Australia take the new ball immediately. Not a moment too soon. Cummins gets the new Kookaburra. Over the wicket to Sundar. Three slips and a gully, but also a short leg. Australia want Sundar driving, but don’t rule out the short stuff. It’s mostly full from Cummins. Sunday picks up two after a misfield at mid-off but Starc then restores equilibrium with a good stop at mid-on, saving a likely two runs and looking after his pace cohort.
80th over: India 225-6 (Sundar 29, Thakur 15) Lyon to Sundar. Now a bat-pad to go with the slip fielder. Sundar looks to move the score along and manages a single to mid-off - the first run in almost three overs. The new ball is now due.
79th over: India 224-6 (Sundar 28, Thakur 15) Starc off, Labuschagne on. Paine looking for one of two things, or both: a quick path to the new ball and an opportunistic dismissal. He achieves the first aim as Marnus peels off a rapid maiden.
78th over: India 224-6 (Sundar 28, Thakur 15) Sundar gives himself space and looks ready to cash in on a shorter one from Lyon, but he muffs his attempted cut shot. Elsewhere, Lyon keeps things tight and it’s a maiden over. But a breakthrough looks some way off. This partnership is now worth 38 from 69 balls. The new ball can’t come quick enough for Australia.
77th over: India 224-6 (Sundar 28, Thakur 15) Sundar goes after the old ball - what on earth will these two look to do against the new one? - clipping Starc backward of square for three. It prompts a change from Starc on two fronts - over the wicket and shorter bowling - but both batsmen are on top of things. Five from the over.
76th over: India 219-6 (Sundar 24, Thakur 14) Lyon again. Both batters are much more watchful against a ball that Lyon is sometimes turning, sometimes not so much. And his line and length remains consistently excellent. Washington beats mid-on to collect a single. Update on Saini: he bowled in the nets this morning and will bat at No 9 in this innings. That’s some recovery. New ball due in four overs.
75th over: India 218-6 (Sundar 23, Thakur 14) Starc around the wicket to Washington. Short square and leg gully in place. These two are going along very nicely indeed. Australia do have runs to play with but as we saw in Sydney, India are quite capable of pulling a draw from nowhere. Key period awaits, but aren’t they all?! Washington keeps down a short one and squirts a single past the fielder close to the bat. Shardul then lives rather dangerously, ballooning a diagonal-bat shot just into safety despite the best efforts of Green retreating from gully. He survives, and picks up two runs.
Thanks Geoff. Enjoy your spell in the deep. After a marathon morning session, and runs and wickets in the past hour, you have earned it. Australia are well placed here but will want to consolidate their position by knocking over the tail as swiftly as they can. Looking forward to the rest of the day. Do join me.
74th over: India 215-6 (Sundar 22, Thakur 12) Another Lyon over, and another six defensive shots from Thakur. Even when he comes down the wicket he defends. Really determined to stay in and bat some time, by the looks. Next target is to bring that deficit under 150, and then keep whittling it down. Get it near 100 and that’s about the position from which India drew the match in Sydney.
Got to love Test cricket. That’s me for day three, I’ll be with you to start the fourth morning. Half an hour early, remember, my pretties. For the rest of the day after this drinks break, you’ll be with Scott Heinrich.
73rd over: India 215-6 (Sundar 22, Thakur 12) A controlled shot from Sunar behind point, stabbing into the ground from Starc and rolling away between point and gully for two. Then a fuller flourish as Starc bowls on his pads and Sundar flicks high over the short leg fielder and into the wide open expanses of the leg side for four. Nobody out there between mid on and deep fine leg if one can only use that space. Next ball, a gorgeous straight drive for four! That is definitely Washington Sundar’s shot of the day, and possibly the shot of the day out of everyone. So calm and controlled against a ball in the 145 kph range. Starc is cranking it up, but for a certain standard of player, a half volley is a half volley. Starc strays down the leg side and Sundar misses out on his glance.
The lead is down to 154.
72nd over: India 205-6 (Sundar 12, Thakur 12) Lyon tries to tempt Shardul Thakur once again, and Thakur plays – hear this in a Ned Flanders voice – nothing at all. Defends solidly and softly, doesn’t even think about swinging at one.
71st over: India 205-6 (Sundar 12, Thakur 12) Starc replaces Hazlewood from the Stanley Street end. Left-armer to left-hander, and Sundar edges! Into the Rahane gap for four. Smith throws his head back. Two slips with Green at gully and Lyon at backward point. Sean Abbott is sub fielding at cover. Looks like Hazlewood and Wade are off at the moment, Michael Neser is out there too.
70th over: India 201-6 (Sundar 8, Thakur 12) Lyon comes on to tempt the tail with some spin. Deep fielders are: long on, midwicket, backward square leg. The standard three for the shots across the line. No one is back on the off side. Backward point, cover, mid off. Then the catching spots are slip, short leg, semi-short midwicket. Thakur misses a cut from his first ball, then decides on discretion for the rest of the over.
69th over: India 201-6 (Sundar 8, Thakur 12) Washington Sundar plays Hazlewood on the bounce towards the cordon, and Smith and Green nearly wipe out one another as they converge to try to field. It gets between their tangle of arms and legs as they fall over and the batsman picks up two runs. Good solid comedy cricket all round there. It raises the 200. Sundar wafts at a wide one and misses. Defends a short ball solidly. Survives the over. The Australian lead is 168.
68th over: India 199-6 (Sundar 6, Thakur 12) He’s off the mark this time, is Thakur, with a six! How about that. He played one Test match a couple of years ago and got injured after bowling 10 balls, and he batted once in that Test, facing 12 balls for 4 not out. Next innings, this one, he just gets underway with a flip pull from his first ball facing Pat Cummins over backward square for six. No drama.
Comes forward to the next one and drives to cover for two runs, then absolutely smokes a cover drive for four! This is gorgeous batting. Cover dived to save but couldn’t even touch it, that went so fast. He’s taken the deficit down to 170 in no time.
67th over: India 187-6 (Sundar 6, Thakur 0) India in strife now, still 183 runs behind as the wicket falls. Shardul Thakur to the crease, who has a few first-class fifties and can bat reasonably well. They desperately need a partnership, nothing flash, just some resistance. Whittle that deficit down, put more overs into the bowlers, take more overs out of the game. Thakur, a right-hander, is hit on the pad and bolts down to the other end for a leg bye.
WICKET! Pant c Green b Hazlewood 23, India 186-6
That’s the good and the bad of Pant. He scores quickly, can change games. He goes to 23 off 27 balls when he scores two through cover. But then he goes for another shot, an uppercut against a rising ball outside off. It was there for that shot really. But he doesn’t middle it, and it flies flat rather than over the cordon, for Green to take an excellent grab of a ball that was really travelling.
66th over: India 184-5 (Pant 21, Sundar 6) Shot from Rishabh Pant! That touch of width from Cummins, and again Pant whisks his wrists through his late cut, diverting it just past thid slip but just fine enough to beat deep backward point, Lyon flying around the boundary but knocking the ball into the rope as he slides. That is some shot. Perhaps a touch of backspin on it made it curve away from Lyon, but it was the tiniest gap to pick. The gully has gone, turned into a short cover instead, but there’s still so much open space in the deep to cover or midwicket. Pant uses neither. He drives dead straight for four. Class shot, right past the bowler, and again the pursuit is futile. Last ball of the over he takes on the pull and top-edges it, lobbing over short leg, but with only a mid on and a fine leg, he has all that space to play with.
65th over: India 175-5 (Pant 12, Sundar 6) Hazlewood to Pant, who won’t mind the short stuff because it lets him play his pull shot. Not spooked at all by being hit in Sydney. He uses it to get off strike, and Sundar dips beneath bouncers with total calm.
64th over: India 174-5 (Pant 11, Sundar 6) Pant loves the gap behind point, and he makes use of it once more facing Pat Cummins. Uses his wrists to cut late but square of gully, picking up two with a deep backward point also out. Two gullies for him as there were for Rahane, with Wade standing quite a bit closer to the bat than Green. Otherwise hs’ got fine leg, short leg, mid on and mid off. Huge gaps at cover and midwicket, unprotected boundaries. So he simply drives to the cover boundary for three. That slow outfield again. Deep backward comes up to a regulation point for Sundar.
The deficit comes under 200. Down to 195.
63rd over: India 169-5 (Pant 6, Sundar 6) Washington plays a capital shot, leaning forward to an overpitched Hazlewood ball and driving it through mid off for four. Then dodges the short ball and defends the length ball, looking very solid thus far.
62nd over: India 165-5 (Pant 6, Sundar 2) Cummins goes to the short ball as well, and Sundar gloves a near-catch past short leg and gets through for a single. There’s some Benny Hill music with the batsmen attempting to run an overthrow, then bailing out, and the fielders running everywhere and fumbling in an attempt to stop it. Two singles from the over in the end.
61st over: India 163-5 (Pant 5, Sundar 1) Tough situation for Washington Sundar on debut. Batting at seven, probably a bit high for his talents, but he can bat. Ducks a bouncer and gets off the mark second ball, nudged to midwicket. Another left-hander, much taller and more slender than Pant. An exercise in sinister contrasts.
WICKET! Agarwal c Smith b Hazlewood 38, India 164-5
Second ball after the break, and Australia’s blue-chip option does it again. Not with a special delivery but thanks to a batsman who hasn’t switched back on. Width from Hazlewood, and Agarwal was so disciplined before lunch but drives hard at this ball and edges it to second slip where Smith juggles but holds on.
Back after lunch...
(Yes, two wickets in the previous session, not one. Kindly refresh your page, previous posts do get amended as we go.)
Lunch – India 161 for 4, trailing by 208
Honours even for that extended session? Australia took two wickets, and India added 99 runs, but the wickets were those of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane which makes them worth more than the average. Lots of work ahead of India but that’s another two and a half hours of weariness put into the Australian bowlers. If the current pair keeps going after the break then we’ll be in for a really good Test match.
I’m going to grab a plate, in the meantime read Barney’s piece on this series.
60th over: India 161-4 (Agarwal 38, Pant 4) Rishabh Pant produced one of the most exciting Test innings one could imagine in Sydney, taking on the bowling when he really had no right to and changing the complexion of a match. He has a similarly big job ahead of him here, still a couple of hundred runs behind. He’s not rushing though, having a look at a few Lyon deliveries before flaying a cut shot backward of point for two runs. No short leg for him, but a bat-pad on the off side to get in his way. That’s lunch.
59th over: India 159-4 (Agarwal 38, Pant 2) Did we mention Agarwal looking comfortable out there? Starc overpitches and it’s creamed down the ground! Lovely straight drive from Mayank Agarwal, taken from right beneath his feet and driven directly beneath the bowler’s feet to hit the rope behind the non-striker’s stumps.
58th over: India 154-4 (Agarwal 34, Pant 1) Off the mark goes Pant, forcing square on the off side. Off to the races goes Agarwal, down the track and lofting for six! That was a sudden change. The bastman feeling confident now and wants to make sure that Australia’s spinner can’t just settle into a groove. Well struck, doesn’t try to murder it, just times it away over long on. Defends the rest of the over. The deficit dips to 215.
57th over: India 147-4 (Agarwal 28, Pant 0) Starc sends down an entire over at Agarwal, who so far in this innings has been unimpeachable. Entirely patient outside the off stump, but scoring every time a bowler gets straight. Another brace for him in that fashion.
56th over: India 145-4 (Agarwal 26, Pant 0) No attacking strokes to start from Pant, who blocks out most of this Lyon over.
55th over: India 144-4 (Agarwal 25) Last ball of the over when the wicket falls. Pant in next.
WICKET! Rahane c Wade b Starc 37, India 144-4
Rahane does have that weakness, and we’ve seen it already today. Reaching for deliveries that he doesn’t need to. Starc angles across him again, fast and fairly full, and Rahane wants a piece. Paine has changed his field: instead of the three slips with one gully, he now has Wade move across from slip to a second gully. And it works. They plug the gap, and the ball goes straight there.
54th over: India 143-3 (Rahane 37, Agarwal 24) Double change, Nathan Lyon comes back to partner Starc. Wicket tally reading 397, keen to move it on. Rahane on-drives a single. Slip, short leg, and short midwicket in place for Agarwal, who pulls through the short leg and into the deep for a single.
53rd over: India 141-3 (Rahane 36, Agarwal 23) Mitchell Starc is back, having switched around to the Stanley Street end. Slinging the ball down fast, angled across Agarwal, who wants none of it. Nasty bouncer and Agarwal goes under it. But there’s the traditional Starc wildcard delivery to end the over, down the leg side, and Agarwal can comfortably glance for four.
That trailing distance creeps down to 228.
52nd over: India 137-3 (Rahane 36, Agarwal 19) Green continues, and these batsmen are very happy to tuck the odd single here and there without trying anything major. Half an hour until lunch.
To answer David, I wouldn’t say there are any dramatically inspiring captains in the Shield. In Australia we tend to make safe and uninspiring choices based around seniority. Paine is the most inventive choice in a long time. There are also no state wicketkeepers demanding selection with big runs, so even if he weren’t captain I think he would still be the Test keeper at the moment. The idea that fast bowlers can’t captain has never sat right with me: the only decent argument being that they’re more likely to miss with injury. But that’s speculative given that any player can do the same. Shaun Pollock is a decent example in relatively recent memory of a quick / skipper.
51st over: India 135-3 (Rahane 35, Agarwal 18) Another scoring edge here, this time from Agarwal reaching out at Cummins. That ball was fairly full and the edge I fancy would have bounced before the cordon had there been a catcher in its path. Instead it hits the gap for four. The deficit drops to 234.
50th over: India 130-3 (Rahane 34, Agarwal 14) Rahane clips Green for a run. Agarwal has a short cover now, Labuschagne, who leaps and stops a drive from clearing him on the bounce. Agarwal goes leg side instead, working through midwicket for two.
Sorry I haven’t got to many emails, it’s been a cricket-focused morning. David Reynolds has written back regarding a captaincy discussion we were having yesterday.
“My Green idea was certainly far-fetched, and I can see the appeal of Cummins. We do not have much encouragement from the past regarding strike bowlers as captains as an Englishman, Bob Willis serves as a chastening example. We have seen some good spinner captains, none better that Richie Benaud, of blessed memory, but the only good example of an opening or first-change bowler as top-notch captain (in my admittedly limited memory) is the magnificent Wasim Akram. On the other hand, Paine is the rare Australian example of a skipper who is primarily in the team to be the captain, rather than being a great player whose indispensability makes him a candidate for captaincy (I don’t mean that he would be dropped otherwise, but that it’s his primary claim on selection). Particularly in this Langer era of culture shift, is it more important to find a decent cricketer who would make a great skipper than a great cricketer who would make a decent skipper? (The Armageddon dilemma, if you will – do you train a well driller to be an astronaut or an astronaut to drill a hole? For the record, they clearly made the wrong choice.) In other words, are there any Mike Brearleys out there in Shield cricket? Perhaps the Smith experience demonstrates that being a good bloke is not enough to set the tone if there are more forceful and senior voices in the team.”
49th over: India 127-3 (Rahane 33, Agarwal 12) Cummins goes pretty short and leg side against Agarwal through the over, and Paine reviews for a glove down leg at one stage. Not out.
“Geoff, maybe it’s poverty of imagination but I’m going to need an explanation of what the chef’s finger gesture is. Can you help?”
Henry Lane, hold your hand up in front of you, palm facing you. Place the pad of your thumb against the pads of your index and middle fingers. Let your remaining two fingers curl against your palm. Kiss the raised three digits at their point, and optionally say something about being delicious or about spicy meatballs. There you have it.
48th over: India 127-3 (Rahane 33, Agarwal 12) Not sure what to make of Green. He’s quick enough, he does a decent job putting the ball in the right spot, he’s tidy with his economy rate. Not much about him as actually looked threatening to the batting team though. Maybe it’s just the way that he strolls up to the crease. Optical illusion. One run from his over.
47th over: India 126-3 (Rahane 33, Agarwal 11) So much riding on this partnership. Rishabh Pant due in next, who is boom-bust, then Washington Sundar on debut before the four fast bowlers. Cummins returns to try breaking it, Stanley Street end. Agarwal immediately drives through cover, nicely timed but Labuschagne takes half the pace out of it diving across and keeps him to two. Plays to the same area with a slightly sliced drive for a single. Rahane plays a crisp front-foot defence to a decent length ball to end the over. The Indian captain is third on the runs list for the series behind Labuschagne and Smith.
46th over: India 123-3 (Rahane 33, Agarwal 8) Very full from Green, so Agarwal is able to drive down the ground. The outfield hasn’t been very fast throughout the match and that ball slows up for three runs. Rahane has a decent look at Green’s offerings without playing.
45th over: India 120-3 (Rahane 33, Agarwal 5) Cat and mouse again between Rahane and Hazlewood. The line outside the stumps he won’t play. The line on off stump he’ll play late. The line at the body, looks to score. Pulls a not so short ball for a couple more runs. The deficit is under 250. A long way to go.
44th over: India 118-3 (Rahane 31, Agarwal 5) Cameron Green to bowl after the [sponsor name] scheduled hydration interval. His fourth over for the innings, first of the day. Yet to take a Test wicket in his fourth match. Has made runs. Speeds in the high 130 kph range in this over. Agarwal wants nothing to do with any of it.
43rd over: India 118-3 (Rahane 31, Agarwal 5) Rahane sticks to a pretty basic plan against Hazlewood. Defends on off stump, evades the bouncer, looks to score from the straight ball. Two runs through midwicket. It works for this over. Hazlewood looks much the most dangerous of the bowlers this morning though. Drinks, with the first-innings gap at 251.
42nd over: India 116-3 (Rahane 29, Agarwal 5) Lyon’s off-spin gives Agarwal the chance to get off strike, sweeping a single to deep backward square. He’s given the strike back and follows up with his first boundary of the day, making some room so that he can square drive to the fence. Nicely timed.
41st over: India 110-3 (Rahane 28, Agarwal 0) Josh Hazlewood, stop it. After getting a ball to seam in and smash Rahane on the pad, the bowler gets another to ever so slightly move away and just beat the edge. Gorgeous delivery. Rahane keeps his cool enough to pull a couple of runs when the length shortens.
40th over: India 108-3 (Rahane 26, Agarwal 0) Lyon to Rahane, who plays to deep point again. Three more runs. Agarwal uses his feet decisively in defence to Lyon, first going back, then coming forward.
39th over: India 105-3 (Rahane 23, Agarwal 0) India’s rock has been broken, and Mayank Agarwal is now back in the team and in the middle order after having been dropped as an opener after Melbourne.
WICKET! Pujara c Paine b Hazlewood 25, India 105-3
My days. That is fast bowling of the absolute highest quality. I’ve long argued that Hazlewood has the best bouncer in this attack, even though he’s regarded as the least scary behind Starc and Cummins. His bouncer is fast, fierce, and very accurate, and has a tendency to zero in on the helmet rather than go astray as the other two often do. He starts this over with a fine example. Pujara sees it dropping short and shapes to play his cross-bat steer, which then becomes an uppercut, but the ball keeps coming in at him. In the end there’s no width, and he can only flinch his gloves into the way to protect his grille. It loops towards gully but doesn’t carry. But it does affect his footwork somewhat. A couple of balls later, Hazlewood bowls the perfect line and length, right on the off stump, forcing Pujara to play, then decking away off the seam. It kisses the edge through to Paine. I’m doing the chef’s fingers gesture in between typing.
38th over: India 105-2 (Pujara 25, Rahane 23) And on Pujara goes! Lyon’s first over of the morning, second ball, and Pujara skips down and flicks him off the pads behind square for three runs. Trés aventureux. Lyon got a huge ovation again when he came on, he really is the crowd favourite at the Gabba and has been since 2016 here, the summer that “Nice Gary” went mainstream. It doesn’t help him when he drops short and Rahane pastes him through point for four. India’s ton is up, the gap is 264.
37th over: India 98-2 (Pujara 22, Rahane 19) It’s time for a visit from Josh Hazlewood, which is of course French for “has the wood”. Tall and mighty, thundering up on his giant hoofs like something from the Book of Revelations. Even the cautious Pujara now has the juices flowing enough to push a single to cover third ball instead of just absorbing the bowler’s first five or six overs to get his eye in. This is very good stuff from Che so far today. His team is 271 behind.
36th over: India 97-2 (Pujara 21, Rahane 19) Five dot balls from Starc, then Pujara plays a simple checked drive through cover for three. He’s so compact and controlled when playing those, and they rarely go to the rope because he doesn’t hit so hard that he’ll lose control.
I’m looking at stats and Pujara has currently faced around 13,350 balls in Test cricket. Since his debut in October 2010, there aren’t many who have faced more. Steve Smith, by about 100 balls. Che could pass him today. Kane Williamson by about 300. Azhar Ali by about 1000. Joe Root by 1300, and Alastair Cook by 4000-plus. Cook finished with 17, 534 balls faced in that span.
The ridiculous part there is that Cook retire... what, three years ago? And he still palyed 101 Tests in the span since Pujara debuted. Root played 98. No one plays as much as England, so the others are Azhar 77, Williamson 83, Smith 75, Pujara 81.
35th over: India 94-2 (Pujara 18, Rahane 19) More initiative from Pujara, who drops a ball to point and dashes for the run as Green has a long way to get down to the ball. Rahane strides into another Cummins length ball and drives on the up through cover for three. High-class shot but it’s risky, that’s the sort that he could easily get wrong. The sun has just come out at the Gabba, and you’d think that playing those drives might be more sensible a bit later once any early moisture has dried out. Then add another bye to the tally as Cummins goes too short again and this time a vertically rising Paine is able to get the very tip of his glove flap to the ball and slow it up to prevent it reaching the fence.
Glove flap. Baby, glove flap.
34th over: India 89-2 (Pujara 17, Rahane 16) Pujara cuts away for four again. Each scoring stroke seems notable from this long-innings player. He’s been quite active this morning, willing to take on certain deliveries. That ball from Starc around the wicket is angled in at him, short, and he just has to lean away from it and hold the bat in position, cross-bat style, to divert behind point. Then he glances a single and Rahane flicks a brace in front of square. Seven from the over.
33rd over: India 82-2 (Pujara 12, Rahane 14) Another little bit of fortune for the Indians, as Cummins bounces Rahane but the ball takes off, clearing Paine’s leap and going for four byes. Aside from that, Rahane defends.
The deficit on the first innings is now 287.
32nd over: India 78-2 (Pujara 12, Rahane 14) Starc to Rahane, edging through the same gap for four! A different shot this time, it’s a straighter ball and Rahane tries to play through midwicket. Gets a leading edge and it flies through exactly the same window in the cordon. Starc just smiles and shakes his head. Whaddyagonnado? He follows up with a single to mid-off, and the very next ball Pujara cuts for four! Now Che is away: a shot with a bit of flourish, swishing his wrists through the shorter ball outside off and placing it just behind point along the ground.
31st over: India 69-2 (Pujara 8, Rahane 9) Cummins rolls on, and he’s making Che Pujara play, which is the first step. Two slips and a gully for El Che, as well as the leg slip that the Australians like having in place. Rahane with the conventional off-side cordon. Another maiden. Pujara has faced 16 balls this morning without scoring.
30th over: India 69-2 (Pujara 8, Rahane 9) Starc to Rahane, edged for four! A proper nick flying through the air, but into the gap between Green at gully and Wade at third slip. Rahane gets very lucky. Don’t know why he played that shot. He takes a big stride forward and pushes at a very wide ball, hard hands, on the up. No upside in that shot, except he wins the smile of fortune. He goes back to leaving from that point on.
29th over: India 65-2 (Pujara 8, Rahane 5) Cummins goes a little shorter and Rahane pulls that firmly behind square for a single. The bowler follows up with some good zing to Pujara, getting the ball to lift and leap through to Paine behind the stumps. Pujara sees off four more balls.
28th over: India 64-2 (Pujara 8, Rahane 4) Starc from the Vulture Street end, the left-armer bowling around the wicket to the right-handed Pujara, who unsurprisingly blocks out a maiden. Starc is less measured than Cummins, bowling a couple at the body, a couple wide of the stumps, a couple drawing a forward defence.
27th over: India 64-2 (Pujara 8, Rahane 4) Pat Cummins has the ball and he’s started with Stanley Street at his back. Rahane gets going quickly. doubling his score by punching through the covers for a couple of runs. A very restrained push at the ball. Cummins otherwise lands the ball tight on the line of off stump as you’d expect.
We’re close to getting underway. Players walking out. Lots of discussion about a few cracks opening up in the pitch. It will likely be a difficult opening hour with the bowlers fresh. Have at it.
And for those of you who like to see what some of your OBO accompanists look like, here’s me and Adam Collins at the Gabba with the remnants of last night’s thunderstorm glowering in the background, going through some of the detail from day two.
For your convenience, last night’s report from the wire service about what happened yesterday.
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It’s day three. The centre. The fulcrum point. The Wednesday of Test matches, whatever day of the week it comes. It’s a Sunday in real terms here in Brisbane and it’s a sticky overcast day. Let me tell you a bit about the heat in Brisbane. It’s close. It’s intimate. It comes and stands too close to you and breathes in your ear. The amount of moisture in the air means that the air wraps around you. Then, when the sun peeks through the cloud even a little, the Australian UV index means that it cooks you faster than the sun anywhere else. It heats up all that water, and your human self starts to cook inside your own confines like a chunk of meat in a sous vide bag. It’s a very physical place to be, you’ll never be unaware of your own body in this city.
That’s what the players face when they’re out in the middle in Brisbane. India will resume after an abbreviated start to their first innings, having lost the entire third session of the second day. They’re 62 for 2 responding to Australia’s 369 all out. Another big effort required from the senior pair, Pujara and Rahane, after Rohit Sharma looked a million bucks yesterday but sold his wicket at Cash Converters prices. Australia’s bowlers are out there warming up as I type. Might be a few sprinkles of rain about but nothing that will hold us up for long. Should be another good day.