Australia 104/4 in 49 overs. Need 219 more runs to win.
By John Cheeran
The only man in Australia who believes that the Aussies can still win the Adelaide Test is Nathan Lyon. He can. And he does not even play in the IPL.
Having bowled his heart out to take six crucial wickets to put an end to the Indian second innings that was threatening to completely shut the Aussies out of the game, Lyon can hope of a miracle on the final day. For, his job has been done.
But Australia, set to chase 323 for a historic win, began their second innings without hope, leave alone confidence to plod at 104/4 in 49 overs. A batsman can survive at the crease with poor technique but not without hope.
Indian captain Virat Kohli had sucked the adrenalin out of the Aussie game, thanks to a collective effort flowering in the latter stage of the game to make an Indian victory almost an inevitable outcome on the final day.
It was not only Cheteswar Pujara (71) but others, too, made significant contributions to make the Indian total truly intimidating. Without Ajinkya Rahane’s plucky 70 and wicketkeeper Rishab Pant’s cocky 28 (from 16 balls), the Australians would have been less alarmist in their outlook. Their contributions helped Kohli to gloss over Rohit Sharma’s and, significantly, his own below par performances. For after losing Pujara early on Sunday, things could have still gone out of the Indian hands.
The batting effort was backed up some excellent bowling by all the four Indian bowlers. Mohammad Shami and Ashwin were rewarded with wickets but a good captain would value the kind of pressure applied at the other end by both Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. In both batting and bowling, Indians have demonstrated that thoughtful application of your mind is far more important than the nature of the pitch.
Coming to that, there are enough indications that the pitch has eased out a bit compared to the first two days but what matters key to batting on this final day, drop-in-turf is good old shot selection. And a head scrubbed clean inside, that the batsman can see the ball.
When faced with a towering statue of runs such as the India’s 323, unless a frontline batsman plays a central role, the target could not be achieved. You cannot go past 323 with knocks of 30s and 40s at Test level. Only a century, or the kind of sweet 70s that Pujara and Rahane hit, can provide the thrust to the chase in the fourth innings and having lost four of them, including the talented Usman Khawja to a rowdy shot, much before the side could edge near to the team’s 100-mark, all that Travis Head and Shaun Marsh can do is repair the damage done to its cricketing pride by adding another 100 runs. Then, there, would be some edgy moments, at the least.
Only 19 teams have made more than 323 in Test history to win in the fourth innings. But for all that, for Kohli to think he has won the Test while three more sessions are left in the match would be a dangerous stroke.
India has come so far from the foolish adventurism of the first session of this Test, and now they should show the passion and determination to complete the job against their arch enemy. Let the ball speak, till the last Aussie batsman go back from the middle.