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Harmanpreet’s sizzling show leaves the game tantalisingly poised after Day 3

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Last updated on 23 Dec 2023 | 03:19 PM
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Harmanpreet’s sizzling show leaves the game tantalisingly poised after Day 3

Australia currently lead by 46 after insinuating a spirited fightback in the third innings, with all three results possible on the last day of the Test

A match that felt like it was heading towards an early finish is going into the last day. After a spirited batting performance, the game took a big swing towards Australia. 

However, some sizzling action in its closing moments featuring the Indian skipper at its centre swung the pendulum back in the middle, where it currently lies. 

The day began with the fall of three remaining Indian wickets, which didn’t take much time. Kim Garth and Annabel Sutherland polished off the Indian tail like Christmas eggnog. When Australia began the second innings, the initial few overs saw a lot of runs, with Mooney scoring seven boundaries in no time. However, Mooney soon had to depart after a bizarre runout, and Phoebe Litchfield paid the price of audacity after chopping on while attempting a reverse sweep. 

This was the first act of the day’s play, which set things up. The second and third act is where the real action happened. 

McGrath says, “not today”

After the second wicket fell on 56, it felt like Australia will follow England’s script from the last Test and would fold on Day 3 itself. But then Ellyse Perry was joined by Tahlia McGrath, and their 84-run partnership ensured that the match saw another sunrise. 

Their partnership felt like a strong punch back but in slow motion, as both the batters blocked with intent and ran every run like their life depended on it. Every single forward defence and push emanated the spirit of a fightback. 

Perry and McGrath used their height to great advantage as they defended astutely against the spinners, using their reach and the depth of their crease. Their approach against spin was similar to how Richa Ghosh and Jemimah Rodrigues batted in their partnership — watching the ball closely and playing with soft hands to negotiate the spin. 

Perry was dismissed on her 91st delivery after she nicked a ball from Sneh Rana that was going down the leg side. But her 45 runs were enough to signal the Australian dressing room that there were no demons in the pitch. Instead, there were runs to be made. 

By now, Australia were ready to quash India’s first-innings lead, and McGrath was easily playing everything India threw at her. In the process, she also picked up her second fifty in the Test. 

However, just like Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah and Deepti Sharma, she was also dismissed in her 70s by a bowler that insinuated a riveting climax to the day’s play. A bowler who only came to bowl after Australia were leading in the game. 

Harmanpreet’s sizzling twist 

Indian skipper Harmanpreet Kaur can bowl. In fact, she’s good enough to have the third-best bowling figures for an Indian in Test cricket after Jhulan Goswami and Deepti Sharma. However, she had restrained to bowl until the 72nd over of Australia’s innings. 

But when she came to bowl, the game's temperature rose suddenly. Her first over was sheer cinema. 

On ball one, which Kaur tossed up on middle and leg McGrath overbalanced and missed her flick. Umpire Anil Chaudhary raised his finger, but the batter reviewed the decision and got it overturned as the ball was missing the leg stump. 

Not much was happening before that except a few “ooh” and “aah” from the close-in fielders. But suddenly, Kaur almost had a wicket on her first ball. Post that, every time the ball left her hand, it felt like something might happen. And it actually did. 

She packed up McGrath LBW on the fifth ball of her first over, making her edge the ball onto the stumps while defending on the front foot. No need for the umpire or the DRS this time. It was dead and gone. 

In her next over, Kaur pinned Sutherland, but again, umpire Chaudhary’s decision was overturned. Then, in the 80th over of the game, the Indian skipper raised the temperature even more.

Alyssa Healy had come down the track to defend a ball straight back to Kaur, who saw that the batter was outside her crease and threw it back towards the stump. 

However, Healy was in the way of the throw, and she used her bat as a shield against it. The ball hit her bat and ran away to the third-man boundary. Harmanpreet appealed against Healy for obstructing the field, but it was overturned, and four runs were given to Australia as overthrows. 

This riled up Harmanpreet. It’s worth mentioning at this point that Healy had once come under the pump for saying that Harmanpreet lacked “genuine effort” to save herself from a runout in the T20 World Cup semifinal in South Africa against Australia. This incident freshened those memories. 

On the next ball, Kaur tossed it up again and this time, Healy completely missed it while attempting a sweep and was adjudged LBW. She reviewed it, but the TV umpire finally upheld umpire Anil Choudhary’s decision. Even he sported a ghost of a wry smile after that. 

Meanwhile, Harmanpreet let out a loud roar, which was heard clearly in the largely empty Wankhede. It was also an announcement of India’s comeback in the game. 

After such an entertaining climax, the game is tantalisingly poised with all three results possible. Australia are leading by 46 runs. India needs their remaining five wickets. It’s all set up for a rousing finish. Bring it on! 

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