Adelaide Test: Patient India Put Noses Ahead on Day 3 vs Australia
India edged ahead in a closely-contested opening Test against Australia, finishing Day 3 at Adelaide on a lead of 166 runs with seven wickets in hand.
The third day of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy opener was affected by unexpected rainfall in South Australia – but either side of rain delays, which were a frequent fixture in the first half of the day, the visitors clawed themselves into a position of strength.
After the pacers accounted for the Australian tail in the opening session – handing a slender 15-run advantage at the end of the first innings – the Indian batsmen dug in with a display of far greater resilience than the one witnessed on Day 1 at the Adelaide Oval, closing the day on 151/3 in their second innings.
Cheteshwar Pujara, the man who proved to be the difference between the sides in the first half of the game, was unbeaten on 40 at stumps.
India Nick Lead Amid Lyon Slogs
An inability to get rid of the lower-order had been India’s bane through their 4-1 Test series defeat in England earlier this year, and that pattern was looming after the latter stages of Day 2: having lost their sixth wicket at 127, Australia had improved to 191/7 at stumps – owed largely to Travis Head keeping his head together.
Start of play on the third morning was delayed by 44 minutes due to unseasonal showers in Adelaide. After keeping the scoring fairly in check upon resumption, India struck the first blow in the fourth over with Jasprit Bumrah getting Mitchell Starc to nick one to Rishabh Pant.
The fall of Australia’s eighth wicket was followed immediately by another opening up of the skies, resulting in a one-hour break this time around.
When the teams came back on, Nathan Lyon appeared set to frustrate India further. A couple of streaky fours, and a stunning hooked six off Mohammed Shami took Australia to 235/8 – only 15 behind India’s first innings total of 250.
But Shami retaliated with a peach two balls later to breach Head’s defense – and the dismissal of the Aussie top-scorer was followed by Josh Hazlewood being removed the very next ball as India emerged with a small, but potentially crucial, lead of 15 runs.
All three Australian dismissals on Day 3 were catches pouched by Pant behind the stumps, which meant he finished with six catches – the joint-most for any Indian in a single innings of a Test.
Unseasonal Rain, Unexpected Resilience
The end of the Australian innings was played amid a light drizzle, which turned into a greater downpour with the fall of the final wicket. Lunch was taken earlier than scheduled, and India eventually came out with 61 overs to bat over the next two sessions.
In 10 innings opening the batting together for India prior to the second essay at Adelaide, KL Rahul and Murali Vijay had never enjoyed a 50-run partnership. The last time they opened for India, in a hammering from England at Lord’s, their stands read 0 and 0. But that was to be corrected as they patiently stitched together a morale-boosting association.
Having experienced the perils of not respecting the new ball two days earlier, Rahul and Vijay adopted a safety-first routine. Only 11 runs came off the first nine overs, four of which were through a leg-bye boundary. The first four off the bat came only in the 10th over.
Runs flowed freely for the next half hour – 40 runs were scored in six overs as India reached 51 in 15 overs, and Rahul and Vijay shook hands in accomplishment for the first time as India openers.
Vijay’s discipline, however, deserted him three overs later, as Mitchell Starc broke through to have India at 64/1. Rahul followed him to the pavillion before Tea, which India entered at 86/2 – but the batting unit’s resilience wasn’t done for the day.
Australia Set to Battle 100-Year Jinx
It has been a hundred years since Australia last successfully chased a 200+ total in the fourth innings at the Adelaide Oval. The century-long period has seen the hosts lose eight and draw six of the 14 targets above 200 that they have had to face.
After the dismissals of Vijay and Rahul, the efforts of Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli ensured that India are all but certain to pose that imposing 200+ figure in front of Tim Paine’s side.
An attritional battle at Adelaide so far perhaps peaked through the final session on the third day. India emerged on top of the attrition, and that’s why they enter the final two days as favourites for the victory.
32 overs bowled after Tea yielded 65 runs at only a whisker above two runs per over, with just six boundaries hit through the period. The Indian captain, and the man who led the team to safety on Day 1, combined to deny a tiring Australian pace battery and a consistently-threatening Lyon.
The off-spinner did get the better of Kohli with four overs left in the day, inducing an inside edge which fell into the hands of forward short leg to end Kohli’s 104-ball 34.
That meant Kohli finished a Test match at Adelaide without at least one century for the first time in three visits. The efforts made and the patience displayed by his team on the day, however, mean the Indian captain is in line to taste a Test win at the Adelaide Oval for the first time.
Brief Scores India: (250 & 151/3, Rahul 44, Pujara 40*, Kohli 34, Starc 1/18) lead Australia (235, Head 72, Bumrah 3/47, Ashwin 3/57) by 166 runs.