Australia dominated Day 4 at the SCG and by the end of it were in a very strong position to take a 2-1 lead in the four-match series. After batting with intent and scoring at a run rate of above 3.5 in the second innings, Australia declared at 312 for the loss of 6 wickets. India, set 407 for an improbable win, were given a solid start by Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill who put together 71 for the opening-wicket before the latter was dismissed by Josh Hazlewood. Rohit Sharma could not resist a pull shot off the bowling of Pat Cummins and threw away his wicket towards the end of the day. India ended the penultimate day on 98 for 2.
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They need another 309 for a win or need to play out an entire day tomorrow to save the game with one batsman short – Ravindra Jadeja who was ruled out of the series with a thumb injury will, in all likelihood not bat in the second innings.
Australia resumed the day at 103 for 2 with their two best batsmen in the middle. Marnus Labuschagne was given an early reprieve when Hanuma Vihari dropped a sitter at square leg off the second ball of the day of the bowling of Jasprit Bumrah. The Australian number 3 was on 47 and went on to score 73 off 118 deliveries putting another century stand with Steven Smith.
Navdeep Saini bowled a better line and length today and was rewarded with the wicket of Labuschagne giving India their first breakthrough of the day. R Ashwin did not allow Steven Smith to score his second hundred of the match, trapping him leg before for 81.
Cameron Green (84 off 132 balls) and Tim Paine added insult to injury by putting together a 100-plus stand for the 6th wicket in less than 20 overs. Australia declared at Tea at 312 for 6 setting India a huge target of 407.
There was again some trouble from the crowd towards the end of the Australian innings. Mohammed Siraj faced the brunt of it and play was halted for a while with the umpires taking control of the situation. Six spectators were asked to leave the stadium and play resumed thereafter.
Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill gave India a solid start before the latter got a jaffer of a delivery from Josh Hazlewood which took the edge for a simple catch to Paine behind the stumps.
Rohit played some exquisite shots and scored a fluent fifty but just when his team needed him to curb his natural attacking instincts towards the end of the day he threw his wicket away attempting a pull shot of Cummins. He was dismissed for 52 off 98 deliveries.
It was a wasted opportunity for Rohit. He looked set for a big one and his team desperately needed him to get a big hundred.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane survived a few anxious moments and India ended the day at 98 for 2, still needing another 309 for a win.
With Rohit’s departure, however, a win seems out of reach for India. A more realistic possibility would be to play out the entire day on Day 5 and save the Test.
India will be, in all likelihood, without the batting services of Jadeja in the 4th innings thus making their task to save the Test a wee bit more difficult. History will also be against the visitors.
The team chasing 350-plus in the last innings has lost nearly 73% of the matches of the 500 such instances from the past.
After being criticised for lack of positive intent in the first innings, India, ironically need Pujara to play like Pujara tomorrow. That is their only hope of saving this Test.
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