All-round Australia tighten grip on third Test

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safari
08 Jan 2021 | 10:58 PM
authorHardik Worah

All-round Australia tighten grip on third Test

After Cummins and Co. bowled India out for 244, Labuschagne and Smith helped Australia to stretch their lead to 197 on Day 3

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Australia outclassed India in all three facets of the game on Day 3 and have taken full control of the third Test in Sydney on Friday (January 9). It all started with Pat Cummins showing everyone why he is the top-ranked Test bowler. India's running between the wicket was horrible and that allowed the hosts to take a match-defining first-innings lead. The Indian bowlers, however, started well in the second innings before Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith arrived and commenced scoring runs for fun. If that was not enough, injuries to Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant only added to India's woes at the SCG.

The game was evenly poised at the start of Day 3, but Cummins bowled his heart out and took 4/29 in 21.4 overs to bundle India out for 244, giving Australia a crucial 94-run lead. Cheteshwar Pujara (176-ball 50) scored a gritty half-century but couldn't convert it into something substantial. The Indian batsmen didn't show enough intent and that allowed Cummins and co. to dictate terms. In the second innings, the hosts are 103/2 in 29 overs, with Labuschagne and Smith unbeaten on 47 and 29 respectively. The two have so far added 67 runs for the third wicket and Australia already have a massive lead of 197 runs.

CUMMINS IS THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

Ajinkya Rahane and Pujara were very defensive with their approach on the second day, but the two senior batsmen commenced Day 3 on a slightly more positive note. Australia started with Nathan Lyon, but the offspinner didn't look threatening and was removed from the attack after bowling just one over. Cummins and Mitchell Starc, however, were relentless in their first spell and kept hitting the deck hard. There were many short deliveries, but Rahane and Pujara tackled it pretty decently at the start of the day's play.  

Rahane was finally offered a half-volley from Starc and the Indian skipper responded with a solid cover drive. Australian captain Tim Paine got Lyon back into the attack and the offspinner almost had Rahane caught at forward short leg, but the right-hander from Mumbai tried to stamp his authority by smoking him for a maximum in the same over. Just when Rahane was starting to get a move on, Cummins got the better of the 32-year-old and sent him back in the hut for 22 to give Australia their first breakthrough on Day 3. Cummins got one to jag back into Rahane from back of a length and the right-hander ended up chopping it back onto the stumps. 

Pujara showed first signs of aggression in the 62nd over when he slammed Lyon down the ground for his first boundary, which came after facing 100 deliveries. He then slapped the offspinner through the covers in the same over to put some pressure on Lyon. Pujara kept blocking everything and that kind of forced the Australian bowlers to bowl to his strengths. There were quite a few full-length deliveries offered in the next few overs and Pujara pounced on them.

Meanwhile, Hanuma Vihari (4) was tested by Josh Hazlewood who was getting the ball to reverse a bit. The right-hander survived a couple of close calls against Lyon but could never get going. Pujara, however, was going strong at the other end, but Vihari was run out against the run of play and his departure put Australia in a commanding position. Vihari, who is playing for his place in the team, went for a needless run and was undone by Hazlewood who first dived to stop the ball and then got the direct hit from mid-off.

The Australian bowling attack was indefatigable, but Pujara was going from strength to strength. Coming in at No.6, Pant took the attack to Australia and runs started to flow at a pretty decent rate. The wicketkeeper-batsman smashed a couple of magisterial shots but also looked a bit uncertain on a few occasions. Australia straightaway took the new ball and replicated what Jasprit Bumrah and co. did a day earlier. Starc was a bit wayward in the two overs that he bowled at the start of the second session, but that wasn't the case with Hazlewood and Cummins. The latter two kept bowling on that outside-off channel, mixing it up with occasional bouncers. Pant looked a bit tentative after getting hit on the left elbow and soon fell to Hazlewood after scoring 36. 

Pujara completed his fifty off 174 deliveries - his slowest in Test cricket. The right-hander from Saurashtra, however, couldn't carry on as he was undone by an almost unplayable delivery from Cummins. The paceman got one to bounce appreciably from just outside off and Pujara was forced to play at it, only to end up managing a thin edge to the wicketkeeper. This is the fourth time in five innings that Cummins has got the better of Pujara in this series. Things went from bad to worse for the visiting side as R Ashwin was run-out for 10, while Navdeep Saini (4) too couldn't hang around. 

Vihari, Ashwin and Bumrah - there were a total of three run-outs and that didn't help India's cause. Jadeja was still around, but the all-rounder was running out of partners. The left-hander had no other choice but to start throwing his bat at everything and that's exactly what he did. Jadeja received a blow to his left thumb but kept chipping away with some crucial runs. His battle against Starc was fascinating, but Jadeja managed 28* to get the deficit under 100. India lost six wickets in the middle session for 64 runs and that session turned the match in Australia's favour.

Pant, who was hit on the left elbow while batting in the second session, was taken for scans and Wriddhiman Saha came in as a substitute wicketkeeper. Jadeja too wasn't available in the final session. 

LABUSCHAGNE AND SMITH AT IT AGAIN

Will Pucovski, who crafted an impressive fifty in the first innings, set the ball rolling with a confident pull shot off Bumrah before punching the ace paceman through the covers for his second boundary. The young opener, however, couldn't cash in on the start and was caught behind for 10 off Siraj. Playing only his second Test, Siraj kept bringing all his deliveries into Pucovski before one held its line around off-stump and kissed the outside edge of his bat.

Unlike in the first innings, David Warner was willing to spend time in the middle, but the left-hander looked far from his best. Warner managed to see off Bumrah and Siraj, but Rahane wasted no time in introducing Ashwin into the attack. And the offspinner only took two deliveries to get the better of Warner. The opener tried to take on Ashwin and went for a sweep, only to end up getting pinned right in front of the stumps. Warner scored 13 before falling to Ashwin for the 10th time in Test cricket.

The openers departed early, but India had to get rid of Labuschagne and Smith as soon as possible. The two picked up from where they had left off in the first innings and once again batted with a positive mindset. Labuschagne announced his arrival with a superb pull shot and kept the scoreboard ticking. Smith and him didn't allow Ashwin and Bumrah to dictate terms and pounced on every scoring opportunity. In the absence of Jadeja, Bumrah and Ashwin failed to put enough pressure on the two batsmen.

There were a few deliveries that kept low and a few that bounced a bit more, but apart from that, the surface was still pretty decent for batting. Siraj was the only one who looked a bit threatening but couldn't break the partnership. India will need something spectacular if they want to make a comeback in this encounter, and for that to happen, they will have to dismiss Labuschagne and Smith as quickly as possible on Day 4.

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Cheteshwar Arvind PujaraAustraliaIndiaIndia tour of Australia, 2020/21Patrick James CumminsRavindrasinh Anirudhsinh JadejaMarnus Labuschagne

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