Mohammed Siraj obtained maiden 5-wicket haul at The Gabba, with India expecting to put in a triumphant run-chase against Australia on Day 5.

STUMPS
4th Test, Brisbane, Jan 15 – Jan 19 2021, India tour of Australia
Australia: 369 & 294

India: (1.5 ov, target 328)
336 & 4/0
Day 4 – Session 3: India need 324 runs CRR: 2.18

Indian pacers Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur produced another encouraging effort in unfavourable circumstances but India was set a challenging target of 328 by Australia as the Border-Gavaskar Trophy headed towards an exhilarating finale on Day 4 of the fourth Test, at The Gabba in Brisbane.

The target is a tricky one and the Indian batsmen would get a fair idea whether to go for it by lunch on the final day, which is Tuesday. This was after Siraj and Thakur combined to share 9 wickets while dismissing Australia for 294 in their second innings.

Before all that, Australia had the best possible start to the day. For the first half an hour, India was either still euphoric from the earlier day or just tried too hard. David Warner had already taken Australia to a flying start last evening. He started with a crisp boundary to the third ball of the day.

Post that, Marcus Harris took over the onus of boundary-hitting. He cut and drove with disdain as Australia batted in one-day mode to start with, adding 40 runs in the first seven overs of the day. It was not without help from India’s bowlers. Interspersed between a few plays and misses were some drivable balls or deliveries with the width from Siraj.

Even T Natarajan – who bowled with precision in the first innings – lost his accuracy and strayed down the pads or bowled short and wide. There was also some luck involved as the two outside edges – one each from the batsmen – went under and above the slips.

That was the well-known duo from the third day that got together again to bring some semblance to the proceedings. Thakur by keeping the ball closer to the body of the two left-handers and Washington Sundar turning it away from them reduced the scoring-rate.

Later some quiet overs, Thakur targeted the openers with short balls. The first ball Harris received was a bouncer as well, to which he bent down but without getting his gloves out of the way. Rishabh Pant completed an easy catch.

Bowling the next over, Sundar turned the first five away from Warner, beating him once. A natural variation of the ball staying straight after pitching got him by surprise. Anticipating turn, Warner stayed back to a full ball that caught him plumb in front.

If Warner’s wicket was to happen the momentum then Marnus Labuschagne had other ideas. He was on to 25 in no time. He attacked Sundar specifically, cutting him behind point and hitting him down the ground using his feet. He glanced and punched Thakur.

After a seven-over spell, Siraj replaced a tiring Thakur. If the momentum did not break earlier, it certainly did after his first over. Labuschagne steered his second ball past second slip for four. Siraj put a little more effort into the next ball that bounced more and straightened after pitching. Rohit Sharma, at second slip, gobbled the outside edge.

The last ball of the over was on Matthew Wade’s pads. Looking to glance it, he got a tickle and Pant completed a diving catch. After a dream start by Australia, India came storming back.

The balance shifted again after lunch as Steve Smith carried the positive approach forward, hitting boundaries whenever presented with an opportunity. For the first seventy balls he faced, Green struggled to score at a rate matching the approach to that of Smith or of the batsmen earlier. When Smith completed his half-century in 69 balls, Green was 14 runs off 70 deliveries.

Smith was pulling, using his feet or crunching past mid-on. Green was looking to survive. A sweep off the 72nd ball he faced, and over before Smith’s dismissal brought about some fluency to Green’s batting. He repeated the same shot in Sundar’s next over and followed up with a cut past point against Navdeep Saini. He moved to 37 off 90 before Thakur had him caught at second slip.

The first signs of the pitch playing tricks came in the 49th over of the innings, 43rd of the day. Four balls bowled at around the same length by Natarajan behaved differently. The first one stayed low and passed underneath Cameron Green’s bat. The second bounced as per Green’s expectations. He defended it out. The third rose a touch more to hit his thighs. The fourth nipped back and hit him in the delicate groin area.

Six overs later, Siraj made one to bounce off a crack. The ball took Smith’s gloves and straight to gully. Tim Paine was lucky to not end up the same way to the first ball he faced. With only one gear to play with, he looked fluent. He was adept with piercing the gap, running his runs on the huge outfield against some lacklustre Indian fielders. He did not miss out on a driving opportunity and even reverse-swept Sundar.

With the fissures opening up, the final day is well set-up. Without a rain interruption, it is unlikely to not be a result here. With it, India is favourites to retain the Border Gavaskar Trophy.

Australia Playing XI:: David Warner, Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Cameron Green, Tim Paine (c & wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.

India Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane ©, Rishabh Pant(wk), Mayank Agarwal, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj.

First Test: Australia won by eight wickets

Second Test: India won by eight wickets

Third Test: Test drawn Full Scorecard

Fourth Test: January 15-19, Gabba, 11am AEDT

 

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