Australia were skittled out for 151 in reply to India's 443 for 7 (decl) in their first innings. Pat Cummins then dismantled the Indian batting order but the visiting side somehow managed 106 for 8 (decl) in their second essay, stretching the overall lead to 399 runs. It was always going to be about survival from there on, and it was once again Cummins who stood between India and a day-four victory.
At stumps, Australia were 258 for 8 in 85 overs, still requiring 141 runs for a win, with Cummins and Lyon unbeaten on 61 off 103 and 6 off 38 respectively.
Chasing an improbable target, Australia's task got harder when Aaron Finch (3) once again flopped, throwing his role as a Test opener under even more scrutiny with speculation that he either has to drop down the order in Sydney or make way for someone else. The 32-year-old offered a nothing shot in the second over, poking at an outside off Jasprit Bumrah delivery, only to end up edging it to Virat Kohli at second slip. Fellow opener Marcus Harris followed him back to the pavilion for 13, getting an inside edge off Ravindra Jadeja.
Australia needed their senior batsmen - Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh - to stand up and deliver for the team, which didn't really happen. Both Khawaja and Shaun Marsh took the attack to Jadeja who was getting good amount of turn. Both even hit a six down the ground but couldn't carry on to make a difference. While Khawaja was pinned right in front of the stumps for 33 by Mohammed Shami, Shaun Marsh too suffered the same fate, becoming Bumrah's second victim. He crafted four fours and a six in his 44-run knock before joining Australia's top-three back in the hut.
The story was no different of his younger brother Mitchell Marsh (10) who announced his arrival with a six before chipping Jadeja's first delivery of the 39th over straight to Kohli at covers.
Amidst all the chaos, Travis Head kept one side intact and even played a couple of well-controlled drives. However, Australia's hopes further dashed when the left-hander dragged one of Ishant Sharma's deliveries back on to the stumps when he was on 34. Australian skipper, Time Paine or "the temporary captain" as Rishabh Pant kept calling him from behind the stumps, commenced his innings with a flurry of boundaries. The wicketkeeper-batsman showed a lot of character and played out over 60 deliveries but once again couldn't convert it into a big score. He was batting on 26 when he edged Jadeja to Pant.
Cummins once again showed stomach for a fight and looked more comfortable against Indian bowlers than the top order. Cummins and Mitchell Starc managed to frustrate India for a bit and added 39 runs for the eighth wicket. It was Shami who brought an end to this partnership, by bowling Starc out for 18. Cummins, however, kept marching on and brought up his second Test half-century with a fantastic cover drive. He found an able ally in Nathan Lyon as the two refused to give up.
The match was carry forwarded to the extra 30 minutes but it was during that period when Cummins carved two gorgeous straight-batted drives. It started to get frustrating for India and Kohli tried all the tricks he could but wasn't able to break the partnership, which has now grown to 43. The two didn't give up and ensured Australia end Day 4 with a gleam of hope - mostly directed towards the rain gods.
Earlier, India resumed the penultimate day with an aim of accumulating quick runs. Overnight batsmen Agarwal (42) and Pant (33) started on a positive note with the former rushing down the track to smack Lyon for two maximums down the ground. But Cummins, who had sparked the game back to life late Friday by grabbing four wickets in a devastating spell, once again came to Australia's rescue as one of his deliveries ricocheted off Agarwal's bat onto the stumps, denying him a deserving half-century.
This was Cummins' third five-wicket haul in 17 Tests. Not satisfied, the right-arm pacer then had Jadeja caught at short point by Khawaja for five to give himself career-best figures of 6 for 27 off 11 overs. Pant smashed Josh Hazlewood (2 for 22) for a massive six straight down the ground but fell in the very next delivery, prompting Kohli to make the declaration.
First Published: December 29, 2018, 1:29 PM IST