Wednesday was a disappointing start for India in the third Test of the ongoing Australia series. It was clear that their longstanding struggles against spin were very much still evident as Matthew Kuhnemman‘s maiden five-wicket haul helped Australia skittle India out for a meager 109 before lunch. Virat Kohli managed a lone bright spot with his 22 off 52 balls, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to keep the batting order afloat against Australian dominance. On the flip side, Australia came in strong and had taken control by close of play with a 47 run lead over India, thanks in part to Ravindra Jadeja‘s four-wicket haul, including that of stand-in captain Steve Smith. The stage is set for an intriguing battle between the two countries over the coming days as they fight to gain a series victory.
Usman Khawaja was the star of the show for Australia in India’s fourth test match, as India’s spinners struggled to find their rhythm on a challenging Delhi pitch. The 60 off 147 performance showed incredible skill and determination, as Khawaja employed excellent shot selection and kept his wits about him. His composure helped set up a solid 96 run partnership with fellow batsman Marnus Labuschagne, who rode out an early lucky stroke that could have saw him bowled on a no ball, carrying through with an unflinching 31 runs by 91 balls. This rounded out an impressive display by the Australian defense, who were determined to not repeat their sweeping mistakes of previous matches and instead focus on playing straight.
When India needed a glimmer of hope on an unplayable pitch, it was Australia’s Usman Khawaja that stepped up and showed the home team the way. He put in a top-notch batting performance, crafting shots over the off side with precision, going for the reverse sweep when necessary but avoiding too much risk at all times. Unfortunately, his efforts were eventually undone by a misjudged sweep shot in the 43rd over as he gave an easy catch to long on. While it wasn’t enough to help his team win in this particular match, Khawaja has unquestionably made an indelible mark with his demonstration of exemplary batting prowess against all odds.
The first session of the third Test between India and Australia in Nagpur clearly established that the pitch has something to offer at the end of the game. It has already produced vicious turn and some odd balls keeping low, making it a tricky proposition for both sides to bat on. Matthew Hayden aptly observed that this Holkar Stadium wicket is ideal for a day-3 finish and looks like it’s truly set for a fun ride during the next three days of play. With India down to 84/7 after committing four no-balls, they will have their work cut out in order to claw back into the game and establish a 100-run lead which could be worth gold on such surface.
In the first session of the fourth Test, India saw three batters perish including skipper Rohit Sharma (12), Ravindra Jadeja (4) and Shreyas Iyer (0). Virat Kohli looked poised in the middle before being trapped lbw by Todd Murphy. Left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann and veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon took three wickets each after winning the toss for the first time in the series. Notably, Shubman Gill replaced an out-of-form K L Rahul while Umesh Yadav was brought in for Mohammad Shami to bolster the Indian batting line up. Clearly, India were trying to provide much needed support to its ailing opening slot without having to resort to a strong tactical overhaul. Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green were also included in Australia’s playing eleven, ensuring their formidable attack would prove too much for Team India.
The first over bowled by Starc to Rohit was undoubtedly among the highlights of the session. The ball swung both ways as if it had a life of its own, which gave Rohit a tricky time to negotiate. Although he got an outside edge on the very first delivery, Australia decided not to go for a review. On the third delivery, Starc’s deliveries swerved back in but the Australians again chose against asking the third umpire to intervene. Gill then stepped out at the other end and started off his innings with a luxurious cover drive. Spin was then introduced in sixth over and Kuhnemman turned up his magic by getting the ball to spin sharply delivering an impressive coup de main. Finally, Rohit succumbed to pressure as he came down heavily on a flighted delivery from Kuhnemman and Alex Carey darted forward in time, making a clean stumping which marked the end of India’s skipper’s inning.
The morning session of play on the third day saw India exposed to an early onslaught by the spin of Nathan Lyon. To open proceedings, Chateshwar Pujara was sent packing for a duck as he failed to adjust to the massive turn off a wide off-stump delivery from Lyon, which crashed into his middle stump. Then, 15 runs later, Ravindra Jadeja left after being caught at short extra cover upon trying to take Lyon on. His wicket further compounded India’s woes and soon enough, to top it off, Ishan Kishan was also upended courtesy of Kuhnemann’s delivery that cut back in sharply, resulting in him playing onto his stumps. All in all a forgettable first hour for India who had lost half their side by then.
The morning session on day 3 of the Test between India and Australia promised to hold a lot of suspense and intrigue, but ultimately ended up as a rather forgettable period for the hosts. Kohli and K S Bharat were batting in the middle and looked steady with their 26 runs partnership for the sixth wicket before their eventual departure. Unfortunately, both were soon out, with Kohli leg before off Murphy while trying to flick one that pitched on the off-stump. On the other end of the pitch, Bharat was trailled by Lyon’s delivery and was adjudged lbw despite making a long defensive stride after hitting Murphy for a six earlier in his innings.