For three and a half days it was like this Test was under the influence of sedatives; now it seems it has taken a bunch of caffeine pills. On the fourth afternoon at the SCG, Australia rollicked along at better than a run a ball in their second innings, hoping to beat India and the weather. Steven Smith broke another record, Chris Rogers scored another fifty, Joe Burns thumped a 33-ball half-century and at stumps Australia’s lead was 348.
Already it meant that India would need to complete the highest successful pursuit in a Sydney Test – Australia set the record by hunting down 288 against South Africa nine years ago. But Virat Kohli is a scarier chaser than Inspector Javert, and Australia will not rest easy on the fifth day until they have his wicket. Even then, India’s lower order showed on day four they are capable of batting time.
An overnight declaration from Smith was all but inevitable, especially with rain expected on the fifth day and the pitch starting to offer plenty of turn. Australia’s limited-overs style approach after they dismissed India for 475 had such a declaration in mind. As the shadows grew longer and the SCG somehow avoided the heavy downpours that fell elsewhere in Sydney, Australia went for their shots.
Smith tried a bit of everything during his 71 from 70 balls, smashing R Ashwin over cover for six against some substantial spin, and reverse sweeping a boundary off him to bring up his half-century. He was lbw to Mohammed Shami, but not before he had surpassed Don Bradman’s 1947-48 record as the highest scorer in an Australia-India Test series. Smith finished with 769 at 128.16.
He had put on 80 for the third wicket with Rogers, who enjoyed another chance to throw caution to the wind. Rogers struck seven fours on his way to a sixth consecutive Test score of fifty-plus; that is the Australian record and one Rogers now shares with Jack Ryder, Doug Walters, Greg Chappell, Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Michael Hussey, Phil Jaques and David Warner.
Rogers was out for 56 when he slogged Bhuvneshwar Kumar down the throat of Suresh Raina at deep midwicket, but more runs were to come for the Australians. Burns and Haddin had licence to clear the boundary, and their 86-run partnership in the dying light came at nearly 10 an over. Haddin finished unbeaten on 31 from 30 balls when play was curtailed.
Burns batted like he was playing for the Brisbane Heat, not Australia’s Test team. He smashed Ashwin with the spin and hit three sixes off him, racing to a 33-ball half-century. He had moved on to 66 from 39 deliveries when he sent a catch to Umesh Yadav in the deep, but not before he and Haddin had destroyed Yadav’s figures – his three overs leaked 45 runs.
In among all the run scoring, there were some signs that spin was starting to play a major role. Ashwin collected four wickets and extracted plenty of turn. He opened the bowling and in his first over had Warner caught at slip, and had Shaun Marsh caught the same way for 1. He also tossed one up to bowl Shane Watson, who on 16 went for a cut but under-edged on to his stumps.
Although his economy rate was 5.52, it was a productive day for Ashwin overall, after he scored a half-century to ensure India’s lower order frustrated the Australians before and after lunch. India moved along to 475 and a deficit of 97 runs, thanks largely to a 65-run stand between Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the eighth wicket.
That partnership ended with a controversial umpiring decision, when Bhuvneshwar was given out caught at slip off Nathan Lyon for 30. He jammed down on a fullish ball outside off and the umpire Richard Kettleborough asked for help from TV official Simon Fry to determine if it was a bump ball.
The replays appeared inconclusive, although the likelihood seemed that the ball had touched the ground after hitting Bhuvneshwar’s bat. The umpires did not see it that way, and Bhuvneshwar was sent on his way. Ashwin then fell for 50 when he edged behind off Mitchell Starc, who straightened one with the old ball.
Starc finished with three wickets and the innings ended when Ryan Harris took the third new ball and Yadav, on 4, skied a catch that swirled and was taken, with some difficulty, by Haddin. It left Mohammed Shami unbeaten on 16, having struck two fours and a six.
Earlier, Kohli had added only seven to his overnight score; on 147 he flicked Harris uppishly off his pads and was sharply taken low to the ground at short midwicket by Rogers, who had spent most of the third day off the field with back spasms. Wriddhiman Saha was out for 35 top-edging a Josh Hazlewood bouncer, and Australia might have hoped to run through the lower order quickly.
But India’s fight was a sign that things might not go all Australia’s way on the final day.
Australia 1st innings 572
India 1st innings
V Kohli c Rogers b Harris 147
WP Saha c Smith b Hazlewood 35
R Ashwin c †Haddin b Starc 50
B Kumar c Watson b Lyon 30
Mohammed Shami not out 16
UT Yadav c †Haddin b Harris 4
Extras (b 4, lb 7, w 1, nb 5) 17
Total (all out; 162 overs) 475
Fall of wickets 1-0 (Vijay, 0.3 ov), 2-97 (Sharma, 43.4 ov), 3-238 (Rahul, 86.6 ov), 4-292 (Rahane, 99.4 ov), 5-292 (Raina, 99.5 ov), 6-352 (Kohli, 119.3 ov), 7-383 (Saha, 130.2 ov), 8-448 (Kumar, 153.1 ov), 9-456 (Ashwin, 158.6 ov), 10-475 (Yadav, 161.6 ov)
MA Starc 32-7-106-3, RJ Harris 31-7-96-2, JR Hazlewood 29-8-64-1, NM Lyon 46-11-123-2, SR Watson 20-4-58-2, SPD Smith 4-0-17-0
Australia 2nd innings
CJL Rogers c Raina b Kumar 56
DA Warner c Vijay b Ashwin 4
SR Watson b Ashwin 16
SPD Smith lbw b Mohammed Shami 71
SE Marsh c Vijay b Ashwin 1
JA Burns c Yadav b Ashwin 66
BJ Haddin not out 31
RJ Harris not out 0
Extras (b 2, lb 2, nb 2) 6
Total (6 wickets; 40 overs) 251
To batMA Starc, NM Lyon, JR Hazlewood
Fall of wickets 1-6 (Warner, 1.3 ov), 2-46 (Watson, 7.2 ov), 3-126 (Rogers, 22.6 ov), 4-139 (Marsh, 25.3 ov), 5-165 (Smith, 30.6 ov), 6-251 (Burns, 39.4 ov)
B Kumar 8-0-46-1, R Ashwin 19-2-105-4, Mohammed Shami 6-0-33-1, UT Yadav 3-0-45-0, SK Raina 4-0-18-0
Toss – Australia, who chose to bat
Player of the match – tba
Umpires – HDPK Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and RA Kettleborough (England)
TV umpire – SD Fry
Match referee – RS Mahanama (Sri Lanka)
Reserve umpire – GA Abood