If the trend of scoring 300+ runs on every day were to continue, India should at least save the Sydney test. But there are factors like consistency of India’s batsmen, worn-out last day pitch and of course, the excruciating heat that may come into play on the final day. Australia are likely to push India straightaway in the morning and although Mitchell Johnson is not there, the other Mitchell; Starc has been quite effective. In the first innings, he was let down by poor fielding and dropped catches, or else; India couldn’t have reached 475. Then there are Ryan Harris and Josh Hazlewood, who too can harry Indian batsmen. Try as they might, India’s batsmen cannot curb their tendency of playing off-side strokes to away-swinging balls that should be left alone. And with Nathan Lyon thrown in early on the cracked pitch, it may be difficult for India to reach 349, required for victory, if Australia declares at this point. On fourth day, Ravichandran Ashwin did that with the new ball by taking away Warner. Lyon and Steve Smith must have been encouraged by that. If the batsmen keep their heads down, India can save the match but the dice is heavily loaded in Australia’s favor on the final day. Australians are not likely to repeat the fielding errors, they made in India’s first innings. In any case, the last day’s play at the SCG could be quite engaging. Virat Kohli is known to be a fighter and he showed that at Adelaide. Therefore cricket fans can be treated to some interesting possibilities.
India began day 4 at 342/5 with Kohli and Saha. Unfortunately, Kohli departed early, adding just 7 runs to his overnight score. He could easily have avoided playing a Ryan Harris’ off-side delivery. In the penchant for runs, Kohli tried to flick the ball to midwicket but the angle of the delivery did the trick as Chris Rogers held the low catch. Kohli was applauded for his 147 runs, as he walked back to the pavilion. Joining Saha after Kohli’s departure was Ashwin, who is in the team essentially as bowler. On several occasions in the past, however, he has also shown his competence as batsman. After playing two dot balls, he elegantly clipped Harris’s last ball to the square leg boundary. Saha and Ashwin continued steadily, scored runs when possible and avoided risks. After they had added 31 for the seventh wicket, Saha lost his wicket in a bizarre fashion. He had looked comfortable all along but with Hazelwood directing a bouncer, Saha was caught in two minds as he crouched low. But the rising ball weakly touched his bat for an easy catch to Smith in the slips. Saha made a very useful 35 and he was followed by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Ashwin and Bhuvi Kumar were involved in a very fruitful 65-run stand for the eighth wicket and took India past 400 runs. For once in this series, the tail didn’t wag. Kumar, who began with a dropped chance of him, carried on for 90 minutes and scored 30 off 75 balls. However, his catch to Watson in the slips was controversial because the ball looked like coming off the ground after getting some bat on it. The decision had to be affirmed by the third umpire. At the score of 456, Ashwin also fell for a well-deserved 50 off 111 balls. The last wicket stand yielded 19 runs of which Mohammad Shami scored 15 including 14 in one over from Nathan Lyon. India finished at 475 all out, 97 behind Australia on the first innings.
When Australia came out again, Virat Kohli tossed the ball to Ashwin for the second over after Bhuvi Kumar had bowled the first. On his third ball, Ashwin got Warner’s wicket, when the confused batsman went on the back foot and gave an easy catch in the slips. While Kohli’s gamble with Ashwin worked, one-drop batsman Shane Watson and Chris Rogers added 40 for the second wicket in just 6 overs. It was evident that the Aussies wanted to collect runs briskly to set a stiff target for India on the final day. Rogers continued with Smith after Watson got out. The third wicket stand produced 80 runs in less than 15 overs. After smith had added 71 from 70 balls, Joe Burns provided the real burst. In T20 fashion, Burns scored 66 off 39 balls with 8 fours and 3 sixes; thus he collected 50 from boundaries and sixes alone. After that, Haddin added another 31 from 30 and at stumps on fourth day, Australia reached 251/6 in just 40 overs.
Australia go to the final day with a 348-run lead. There are chances that they declare first thing in the morning and that would set India a target of 349. It is not impossible to score 349 but India would not like to lose in trying anything adventurous. Virat Kohli almost did an identical thing at Adelaide but he too would want to avoid defeat in this last test match.