December 29, 2018
Pat Cummins has pushed the third Test into a fifth day but India are on the verge of retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy in Melbourne, where Australia will resume at 8-258 in pursuit of 399.
Jasprit Bumrah, enjoying the most productive Test in Australia by an Indian paceman, continued to create carnage as the tourists powered towards a 2-1 series lead at the MCG.
Cummins, who grabbed a career-best haul of 6-27 on Saturday morning before Virat Kohli declared for a second time in the game, top-scored with a career-best 61 not out to embarrass his top six.
The national batting crisis, exacerbated by Steve Smith and David Warner’s year-long suspensions, has delivered India a golden chance to secure their maiden Test series win in Australia.
Rain is forecast for day five but not of the biblical proportions that is likely to be required to help Australia avoid defeat.
Victory at the MCG would leave Kohli on the cusp of making history in the SCG series finale, which starts on Thursday.
India have lost all 11 previous Test series they’ve played in Australia, a barren stretch dating back to when they were crushed by Don Bradman’s side in 1948.
A day after Australia’s top six folded in collapses of 3-29 and 3-13, Aaron Finch again set the tone in another morale-sapping innings that has past players, pundits and punters all calling for selectors to swing the axe.
Bumrah struck with his second delivery of the day, which Finch inexplicably steered straight to an ecstatic Kohli at second slip.
Mitch Marsh’s flat-footed dismissal to Ravindra Jadeja, which came shortly after he smacked the left-arm spinner for six, offered Kohli more catching practice and was another lowlight for Australia.
Paine, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Travis Head all offered some form of resistance but it was Cummins and Nathan Lyon, unbeaten on six from 38 balls, who held on when umpires took the extra half hour then India took the second new ball.
Bumrah’s match haul of 8-86 is the best effort by a touring bowler in Australia since Kyle Abbott claimed 9-118 at Bellerive in 2016, when South Africa stormed home by an innings and 80 runs to trigger immense change in Australian cricket.
Chairman of selectors Rod Marsh stepped down and a new panel made five changes to the XI after that horrible loss.
Australia have already named a 13-man squad for the SCG Test, which would suggest Peter Handscomb is the only player in the mix for a call-up for the series finale, but selectors may yet opt for reinforcements.