Australia had the advantage heading into the third test at the SCG as India were going into the test with a bunch of key players down. Virat Kohli was out due to paternity leave but M Shami and U Yadav were out due to injuries suffered in the first and second tests.
Australia Fail To Capitalize
Australia won the toss at the SCG and decided to bat first without hesitation as the SCG pitch is known to offer turn and be difficult to bat on the last day. Australia went in with a new opening pair with David Warner and the young Will Pucovski. Warner failed but Pucovski clicked scoring 62 in the first innings.
M Labuschagne (91) and S Smith (131) put together a partnership that looked to take the game away from India. However, India bounced back brilliantly after the two established batsmen fell to steamroll Australia and restrict them to a first innings total of 338.
India looked good batting first as the new opening pair of R Sharma (26) and S Gill (50) clicked and got India off to a decent start. Pujara (50) and R Pant (36) also played well but India lost unnecessary wickets via run outs and at one stage looked like they were going to fall short of 200. However, some rear guard action by R Jadeja towards the end helped India get to 244.
Tim Paine Captaincy Under Scrutiny
Australia had a 94 run lead in the first innings and had another edge over India as R Jadeja hurt his finger and was unable to bowl in the second innings. However, Australia found it difficult to score quickly and dragged things a bit. Once again M Labuschagne (73) and S Smith (81) played well and ensured that Australia would get a big lead in the second innings.
It was Cameron Green who gave the innings momentum scoring an impressive 84 at a strike rate of nearly 64. Australia set India a target of 407 to chase in 4 sessions which looked good to the casual fan but not so good to the hardcore cricket fan.
This is because the last two tests that India played at the SCG have ended in a draw. Tim Paine should have asked his players to have upped the run rate earlier, so that he had more time to play with and bowl the Indians out.
Paine could have also declared below 400 and given the Indians a sniff at chasing the total down. This would have helped Australia create more chances against an Indian team trying for a win. Chasing 407 in four sessions was a difficult task from the onset and it meant that India would focus more on saving the test and playing a less attacking brand of cricket.
India Show Character To Draw Test
Indian players were subjected to racist chants in the second innings when M Siraj came under fire. The racist fans at the SCG were removed and an apology was tendered to the Indian team. The attack brought the team closer together and made them more determined to fight.
It showed in all the batsmen as R Sharma (52), S Gill (31) and Pujara (77) played brilliantly to keep India in the game. Captain A Rahane did not impress with the bat but R Pant did in the second innings by scoring a fantastic 97. Pant not only gave the innings momentum and took the fight to the Australians but made it appear that India could win.
In the end, it was H Vihari and R Ashwin who put in a herculean effort and batted for 289 balls combined to save the test. India will now move to Brisbane to play the fourth and final test at the Gabba on 15 Jan.
Even though the match was drawn, Australia will feel like they lost as this was attest Australia should have won.