73rd over: India 215-6 (Sundar 22, Thakur 12) A controlled shot from Sunar behind point, stabbing into the ground from Starc and rolling away between point and gully for two. Then a fuller flourish as Starc bowls on his pads and Sundar flicks high over the short leg fielder and into the wide open expanses of the leg side for four. Nobody out there between mid on and deep fine leg if one can only use that space. Next ball, a gorgeous straight drive for four! That is definitely Washington Sundar’s shot of the day, and possibly the shot of the day out of everyone. So calm and controlled against a ball in the 145 kph range. Starc is cranking it up, but for a certain standard of player, a half volley is a half volley. Starc strays down the leg side and Sundar misses out on his glance.
The lead is down to 154.
72nd over: India 205-6 (Sundar 12, Thakur 12) Lyon tries to tempt Shardul Thakur once again, and Thakur plays – hear this in a Ned Flanders voice – nothing at all. Defends solidly and softly, doesn’t even think about swinging at one.
71st over: India 205-6 (Sundar 12, Thakur 12) Starc replaces Hazlewood from the Stanley Street end. Left-armer to left-hander, and Sundar edges! Into the Rahane gap for four. Smith throws his head back. Two slips with Green at gully and Lyon at backward point. Sean Abbott is sub fielding at cover. Looks like Hazlewood and Wade are off at the moment, Michael Neser is out there too.
70th over: India 201-6 (Sundar 8, Thakur 12) Lyon comes on to tempt the tail with some spin. Deep fielders are: long on, midwicket, backward square leg. The standard three for the shots across the line. No one is back on the off side. Backward point, cover, mid off. Then the catching spots are slip, short leg, semi-short midwicket. Thakur misses a cut from his first ball, then decides on discretion for the rest of the over.
69th over: India 201-6 (Sundar 8, Thakur 12) Washington Sundar plays Hazlewood on the bounce towards the cordon, and Smith and Green nearly wipe out one another as they converge to try to field. It gets between their tangle of arms and legs as they fall over and the batsman picks up two runs. Good solid comedy cricket all round there. It raises the 200. Sundar wafts at a wide one and misses. Defends a short ball solidly. Survives the over. The Australian lead is 168.
68th over: India 199-6 (Sundar 6, Thakur 12) He’s off the mark this time, is Thakur, with a six! How about that. He played one Test match a couple of years ago and got injured after bowling 10 balls, and he batted once in that Test, facing 12 balls for 4 not out. Next innings, this one, he just gets underway with a flip pull from his first ball facing Pat Cummins over backward square for six. No drama.
Comes forward to the next one and drives to cover for two runs, then absolutely smokes a cover drive for four! This is gorgeous batting. Cover dived to save but couldn’t even touch it, that went so fast. He’s taken the deficit down to 170 in no time.
67th over: India 187-6 (Sundar 6, Thakur 0) India in strife now, still 183 runs behind as the wicket falls. Shardul Thakur to the crease, who has a few first-class fifties and can bat reasonably well. They desperately need a partnership, nothing flash, just some resistance. Whittle that deficit down, put more overs into the bowlers, take more overs out of the game. Thakur, a right-hander, is hit on the pad and bolts down to the other end for a leg bye.
WICKET! Pant c Green b Hazlewood 23, India 186-6
That’s the good and the bad of Pant. He scores quickly, can change games. He goes to 23 off 27 balls when he scores two through cover. But then he goes for another shot, an uppercut against a rising ball outside off. It was there for that shot really. But he doesn’t middle it, and it flies flat rather than over the cordon, for Green to take an excellent grab of a ball that was really travelling.
66th over: India 184-5 (Pant 21, Sundar 6) Shot from Rishabh Pant! That touch of width from Cummins, and again Pant whisks his wrists through his late cut, diverting it just past thid slip but just fine enough to beat deep backward point, Lyon flying around the boundary but knocking the ball into the rope as he slides. That is some shot. Perhaps a touch of backspin on it made it curve away from Lyon, but it was the tiniest gap to pick. The gully has gone, turned into a short cover instead, but there’s still so much open space in the deep to cover or midwicket. Pant uses neither. He drives dead straight for four. Class shot, right past the bowler, and again the pursuit is futile. Last ball of the over he takes on the pull and top-edges it, lobbing over short leg, but with only a mid on and a fine leg, he has all that space to play with.
65th over: India 175-5 (Pant 12, Sundar 6) Hazlewood to Pant, who won’t mind the short stuff because it lets him play his pull shot. Not spooked at all by being hit in Sydney. He uses it to get off strike, and Sundar dips beneath bouncers with total calm.
64th over: India 174-5 (Pant 11, Sundar 6) Pant loves the gap behind point, and he makes use of it once more facing Pat Cummins. Uses his wrists to cut late but square of gully, picking up two with a deep backward point also out. Two gullies for him as there were for Rahane, with Wade standing quite a bit closer to the bat than Green. Otherwise hs’ got fine leg, short leg, mid on and mid off. Huge gaps at cover and midwicket, unprotected boundaries. So he simply drives to the cover boundary for three. That slow outfield again. Deep backward comes up to a regulation point for Sundar.
The deficit comes under 200. Down to 195.
63rd over: India 169-5 (Pant 6, Sundar 6) Washington plays a capital shot, leaning forward to an overpitched Hazlewood ball and driving it through mid off for four. Then dodges the short ball and defends the length ball, looking very solid thus far.
62nd over: India 165-5 (Pant 6, Sundar 2) Cummins goes to the short ball as well, and Sundar gloves a near-catch past short leg and gets through for a single. There’s some Benny Hill music with the batsmen attempting to run an overthrow, then bailing out, and the fielders running everywhere and fumbling in an attempt to stop it. Two singles from the over in the end.
61st over: India 163-5 (Pant 5, Sundar 1) Tough situation for Washington Sundar on debut. Batting at seven, probably a bit high for his talents, but he can bat. Ducks a bouncer and gets off the mark second ball, nudged to midwicket. Another left-hander, much taller and more slender than Pant. An exercise in sinister contrasts.
WICKET! Agarwal c Smith b Hazlewood 38, India 164-5
Second ball after the break, and Australia’s blue-chip option does it again. Not with a special delivery but thanks to a batsman who hasn’t switched back on. Width from Hazlewood, and Agarwal was so disciplined before lunch but drives hard at this ball and edges it to second slip where Smith juggles but holds on.
(Yes, two wickets in the previous session, not one. Kindly refresh your page, previous posts do get amended as we go.)
Lunch – India 161 for 4, trailing by 208
Honours even for that extended session? Australia took two wickets, and India added 99 runs, but the wickets were those of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane which makes them worth more than the average. Lots of work ahead of India but that’s another two and a half hours of weariness put into the Australian bowlers. If the current pair keeps going after the break then we’ll be in for a really good Test match.
I’m going to grab a plate, in the meantime read Barney’s piece on this series.
60th over: India 161-4 (Agarwal 38, Pant 4) Rishabh Pant produced one of the most exciting Test innings one could imagine in Sydney, taking on the bowling when he really had no right to and changing the complexion of a match. He has a similarly big job ahead of him here, still a couple of hundred runs behind. He’s not rushing though, having a look at a few Lyon deliveries before flaying a cut shot backward of point for two runs. No short leg for him, but a bat-pad on the off side to get in his way. That’s lunch.
59th over: India 159-4 (Agarwal 38, Pant 2) Did we mention Agarwal looking comfortable out there? Starc overpitches and it’s creamed down the ground! Lovely straight drive from Mayank Agarwal, taken from right beneath his feet and driven directly beneath the bowler’s feet to hit the rope behind the non-striker’s stumps.
58th over: India 154-4 (Agarwal 34, Pant 1) Off the mark goes Pant, forcing square on the off side. Off to the races goes Agarwal, down the track and lofting for six! That was a sudden change. The bastman feeling confident now and wants to make sure that Australia’s spinner can’t just settle into a groove. Well struck, doesn’t try to murder it, just times it away over long on. Defends the rest of the over. The deficit dips to 215.
57th over: India 147-4 (Agarwal 28, Pant 0) Starc sends down an entire over at Agarwal, who so far in this innings has been unimpeachable. Entirely patient outside the off stump, but scoring every time a bowler gets straight. Another brace for him in that fashion.
56th over: India 145-4 (Agarwal 26, Pant 0) No attacking strokes to start from Pant, who blocks out most of this Lyon over.
55th over: India 144-4 (Agarwal 25) Last ball of the over when the wicket falls. Pant in next.
WICKET! Rahane c Wade b Starc 37, India 144-4
Rahane does have that weakness, and we’ve seen it already today. Reaching for deliveries that he doesn’t need to. Starc angles across him again, fast and fairly full, and Rahane wants a piece. Paine has changed his field: instead of the three slips with one gully, he now has Wade move across from slip to a second gully. And it works. They plug the gap, and the ball goes straight there.
54th over: India 143-3 (Rahane 37, Agarwal 24) Double change, Nathan Lyon comes back to partner Starc. Wicket tally reading 397, keen to move it on. Rahane on-drives a single. Slip, short leg, and short midwicket in place for Agarwal, who pulls through the short leg and into the deep for a single.
53rd over: India 141-3 (Rahane 36, Agarwal 23) Mitchell Starc is back, having switched around to the Stanley Street end. Slinging the ball down fast, angled across Agarwal, who wants none of it. Nasty bouncer and Agarwal goes under it. But there’s the traditional Starc wildcard delivery to end the over, down the leg side, and Agarwal can comfortably glance for four.
That trailing distance creeps down to 228.
52nd over: India 137-3 (Rahane 36, Agarwal 19) Green continues, and these batsmen are very happy to tuck the odd single here and there without trying anything major. Half an hour until lunch.
To answer David, I wouldn’t say there are any dramatically inspiring captains in the Shield. In Australia we tend to make safe and uninspiring choices based around seniority. Paine is the most inventive choice in a long time. There are also no state wicketkeepers demanding selection with big runs, so even if he weren’t captain I think he would still be the Test keeper at the moment. The idea that fast bowlers can’t captain has never sat right with me: the only decent argument being that they’re more likely to miss with injury. But that’s speculative given that any player can do the same. Shaun Pollock is a decent example in relatively recent memory of a quick / skipper.
51st over: India 135-3 (Rahane 35, Agarwal 18) Another scoring edge here, this time from Agarwal reaching out at Cummins. That ball was fairly full and the edge I fancy would have bounced before the cordon had there been a catcher in its path. Instead it hits the gap for four. The deficit drops to 234.