When Team India takes to the field on day three of the third Test in Indore, the hosts will have to bamboozle Aussies with their spin, rattle the visitors with their pace to pull a record-breaking target defence in the history of the longer format.
Australia on Day 2 started their innings at 156/4, with Peter Handscomb (7*) and Cameron Green (6*) unbeaten. But the duo of Ravichandran Ashwin (3/44) and pacer Umesh Yadav (3/12) brought to the game such a cocktail of spin and pace, that Australia lost the rest of their six wickets within 41 runs, bundling out for 197.
Trailing by 88, Team India had their task cut out, to survive against Australian spinners and build up a formidable total. But in the end, the hosts’ batting lineup was brought down on its knees by Nathan Lyon, who took eight wickets for 64 runs. Matthew Kuhnemann and Mitchell Starc also took a wicket.
India was bundled out for 163 runs and Cheteshwar Pujara (59) was the only one that offered resistance to Australia’s tactics. Hosts walked away from the field with a slender lead of 75 runs, setting a target of 76 runs for Australia.
But India will definitely find solace in the fact that the pitch is hard to bat on and its spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja is in good touch. Besides that, Umesh can also replicate his first-innings heroics. Together, Indian bowling will have to pull off a total defence that can rewrite record books.
To date, the lowest target defended in the longer format is 85 by Australia against England in 1882. In a one-off Test between arch-rivals at The Oval, the visitors successfully defended this low total by skittling out England for just 77 runs in a thrilling match. Interestingly, this was also the match that birthed the prestigious Ashes series contested between both the sides.
When they take to the field, Team India will have these records as their inspiration, something that tells them that nothing is ever impossible in cricket. They will have to rewrite this 141-year old history in order to go 3-0 up in the series and seal their spot in ICC World Test Championship final.
This is what Umesh said during the press conference at the end of the day’s play.
Umesh said that his side will go out with a positive approach on the third day since the sport is unpredictable and it is difficult to score runs on such a tough surface.
“We will go in with a positive approach. Cricket is unpredictable and the way the wicket is playing, you never know what may happen as it is difficult to score runs on this pitch. We will bowl tight and dry the runs. It is not a shot-making pitch, there are no easy runs here. So we will bowl well and see what happens,” said Umesh in a press conference at the end of the day’s play.
On his spell of 3/12 in the first innings which caused a collapse in the Australian innings, Umesh said that the thinking was to attack and take wickets.
“Pitches in the subcontinent do help spinners more than it aids the fast bowlers but the mindset is always to get breakthroughs for the team even when it is just one wicket. I was talking with Siraj that if we get the chance to bowl we will look to get wickets as it helps the team. That is what I did,” said Umesh.
He remarked that taking wickets on such “lifeless” tracks gives immense satisfaction, is more gratifying and the sight of stumps cartwheeling is exciting.
On the other hand, Lyon also was full of praise for his stand-in captain Steve Smith for taking a brilliant catch to send back Pujara, which was a “massive” moment in the game.
“It was massive,” Lyon said as quoted by ESPNCrincinfo.
“To be honest with you, and this is no disrespect to anyone else in the team, but I do not think anyone else is catching it. That’s just me bowling from one end and looking up and seeing Steve Smith at slip or leg slip and having that confidence as a bowler.”
“Yes, he has dropped a couple here and there, but I would not trade him for anyone. It shows the quality of the cricketer he is that we see at training the different methods he is coming up with to try and get better and try and improve. This is someone who has played 95 Test matches.”
“Hats off to Smithy, he did all the work, I am not surprised but it was a massive moment to finish off the day strongly,” concluded Lyon.
Whatever the result might be, fans are up for another exciting and unpredictable day of Test cricket.
Brief Scores: India: 109/10 in 33.2 overs in 1st inns (Virat Kohli 22, Shubman Gill 21, Matthew Kuhnemann 5-16), Australia: 197/10 in 76.3 overs in 1st inns (Usman Khawaja 60, Marnus Labuschagne 31, Ravindra Jadeja 4-78, Umesh Yadav 3-12, Ravichandran Ashwin 3-44); India 163 (Cheteshwar Pujara 59; Nathan Lyon 8-64). (ANI)