When Sunny Gavsakar made the pitch inspection on first day morning at SCG, he predicted that the wicket was full of runs. The legendary cricketer has been vindicated as over 900 runs have come in three days and only 12 wickets have fallen. On third day, India lost Rohit Sharma early and even as Kohli joined Rahul, India were still too far behind Australia. However, India ended the day with some credit in scoring 342/5. They are still 230 runs in arrears and the danger is not over. For India, it is not merely a question of avoiding another defeat but show that the middle order can function. Wriddhiman Saha is no mean batsman and he must demonstrate his true batting capability now that he is more or less a permanent member of Indian team. Ashwin, Bhuvi Kumar and Mohammad Shami have scored in the past and there is no reason why they cannot come good at crunch time. In one respect, third day’s play was nearly similar to the first two. Batting was easy and bowlers and fielding despondent. Sans Mitchell Johnson, Australia could only manage four wickets for the day, which also included two in two balls from Shane Watson soon after tea. Regardless, India added 271 runs to their total from centuries by Lokesh Rahul and Kohli. For Rahul, it was rejuvenation after his forgettable show at Melbourne. As for Kohli, he got another chance to show his fighting acumen and came up with one more hundred to match the show by his Australian counterpart. Should Indian batting disappoint on day 4, Australia have the ability to run through India’s tail and build pressure on day 5.
When India resumed at 71/1 on third day, Lokesh Rahul and Rohit Sharma batted with ease and kept the scoreboard ticking without taking risks. But four balls after Sharma celebrated his return to the India side with a half-century, he lost his wicket. Sharma went to sweep Nathan Lyon’s flighted ball that pitched on the off-side but he missed and the ball went through to rattle his stumps. Virat Kohli came to the crease with the score reading 97/2. There was high dram off the next ball from Lyon as Kohli was beaten but he got lucky that the ball missed his off stump. Somehow, without a call Rahul scampered halfway down the pitch for a non-existent run and had to turn around immediately. He fell and lost his bat even as Smith shouted that the ball be thrown at the bowler’s end with Rahul miles away. Instead, the fielder threw to the keeper’s side, where Kohli was inside the crease anyway. In the fielding chaos, Rahul saved his wicket as he somehow managed to scramble back home by the time the ball arrived at his end. Kohli opened his account by sending Lyon’s next ball to the boundary. Kohli and Rahul played more defensive strokes that any time in recent past and the lunch time score was just 122/2. In a two hour session of 30 over, 51 runs meant that the batsmen had been preferring safety with a focus to stay in the test match.
After lunch, Kohli and Rahul got lucky that some sharp chances were spilled by Australian fielders. Kohli was let off twice but while the first chance off Mitchell Starc was difficult to Haddin, the second off the same bowler could have been held by Smith at the second slip. Kohli had reached 59, when he played a poor shot and the edge flew over Smith, who failed to rise on his toes. Or else; Kohli could have been walking back to the pavilion. As for Rahul, he had his reward after a hopeless performance at MCG. The two-test old batsman reached his maiden test century at the stroke of tea and cried in exhilaration as he guided a short ball from Starc in the gap past gully. In the 30-over session between lunch and tea, Indians added 112 runs to make up for the slow rate until lunch.
Shortly after the batsmen came back post tea break, Rahul lost his wicket. He tried a pull on an off-side delivery from Starc delivery and managed a vertical lob. Starc got under it and that was the end of Rahul’s innings. Ajinkya Rahane joined Kohli but he didn’t last long. However, he was around when Kohli reached his fourth century of the series in the 97th over bowled by Hazlewood. Later however, Kohli’s anguish knew no bounds, when he watched two of his batsman getting out in two balls in the 100th over from Shane Watson. First it was Rahane, who fell as an LBW victim and then Haddin caught the new batsman Suresh Raina, who had come back to test cricket after more than 2 years.
However, with Wriddhiman Saha hanging on at 14 and Kohli not out on 140, India reached 342/5 at the end of the third day. The fourth day will be crucial for India since they can ill-afford to allow too much rope to Australia. The lower middle order needs to come good with a view to reducing the first innings lead to as much as possible. That will be the key to India’s intent in the Sydney test.
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