by Anubhav Saxena __
After bundling out the Aussies for 151, Virat should have made them bat again.
Not doing so could cost India an otherwise well-deserved win at Melbourne if Australia’s batsmen rediscover their tenacity in the fourth innings. After India’s batsman frustrated the Australian bowlers for two long days to declare at a formidable 443/7, day 3 decisively belonged to the bowlers. Fifteen wickets fell on Day 3 in all wiping out the entire Australian line-up for the first innings and half of India’s batting for the second.
For India, Brute Bumrah led the bowling attack with astonishing ferocity and precision, taking 6 wickets for 33 runs. Australia started the day at 8 for no loss, but none of the batsmen showed either the skill or the determination for sticking to the wicket for long. On the other hand, India’s bowling and Kohli’s field settings were spot on throughout the Australian innings.
Finch was caught by Mayank at short mid-wicket for 8 (36 balls, 1×4) in a fashion similar to his dismissal vs Pakistan in Dubai. Harris was done in by a well-directed Bumrah bouncer for 22 (35 balls, 2×4), caught by Ishant at long leg. Bumrah’s slow ball to get rid of Shaun Marsh for 19 (61 balls, 1×4) was a major highlight of the day. Captain T D Paine was also among Bumrah’s victims, edging to Rishabh Pant for 22 (85 balls, 1×4).
Bumrah and Shami also cleaned up the Australian tail in a hurry. Shami got rid of Cummins for 17 (48 balls, 2×4) and Bumrah sent Lyon and Hazlewood back to the pavilion without scoring. Finally, the Australian team was bowled out for a paltry 151, handing India a 1st innings lead of 292 runs.
At this stage, with all the cards in their favour, India took the highly debatable decision of batting again instead of enforcing the follow-on. The momentum that India’s bowlers had gained could have been leveraged to hand a crushing innings defeat to Australia.
One would deem the prospect of Australia crossing 292 and making India bat again extremely improbable. Moreover, India should have taken all the time they could get to bowl the Australians out again.
The only plausible defence could be that India would want to save itself from batting in the 4th innings. However, the dramatic fall of five Indian wickets, including his own and Pujara’s for ducks would have certainly made Kohli rue his decision of batting again. At 54/5, India have only slightly extended the lead to 346 runs. Cummins has done a fabulous job of piercing through the Indian top order with 4 wickets, including those of Kohli and Pujara in similar fashion and in the same over.
Former Australian captain Allan Border felt that India’s decision has given some hope to Australia for saving the Test match, as the pitch may not deteriorate too much over the next two days. He stated, “India are still in the box seat but they’ve left the door slightly ajar for the Aussies.” There’s more – according to predictions, there are 60% chances of rain on the fourth day and 80% chances on the fifth.
The match is still in India’s hands, but if Australia just manages to squeeze out a draw, it will be seen as a major blunder by Virat Kohli as captain. Possibly the perspective was to score 150 odd by lunch tomorrow and put Australia in to bat. But the Indian innings may not achieve either that kind of score or last that long. Ultimately that could be a blessing in disguise as India’s bowlers need all the time they can get.
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