13th over: India 57-2 (Gill 30, Rahane 19) Chasing 70 – Hazlewood is line and length for four deliveries but then he drops short to Gill who is onto the pull shot in a flash, smashing four miles in front of square. This partnership has gone from settling Indian nerves to laying down a marker for the remainder of the series.
12th over: India 53-2 (Gill 26, Rahane 19) Chasing 70 – Gill negotiates the potential history ball by advancing down the pitch and smothering any turn. He plays watchfully thereafter, looking to defend with Lyon’s spin from off to leg. Eventually one of those defensive strokes finds a small gap behind square on the legside and the target inches one run nearer.
Now on comes Nathan Lyon – on a hat-trick after taking the final two wickets of Australia’s first innings.
11th over: India 52-2 (Gill 25, Rahane 19) Chasing 70 – Rahane’s turn now to throw his hands at the ball outside his off stump and earn four with a square drive right on the borderline of controlled. A few shots have flown through the broader gully area in the air this innings, including the dismissal of Pujara. There are no such doubts over Rahane’s second boundary of the over, standing tall and smashing Hazlewood on the up through mid-off with a glorious swing of the bat. That was a real statement stroke, full of confidence and authority.
10th over: India 42-2 (Gill 25, Rahane 9) Chasing 70 – Gill and Rahane exchange singles into the on-side as Cummins continues his straight line to the right-handers. The bowler adjusts to a more conventional fourth stump approach, drawing Gill into a couple of strokes with his hands away from his body, the latter of the pair earning India four runs from a square drive that was just about controlled. This has been the perfect brisk opening from Gill, not taking any unnecessary risks but quickly turning the run-chase into a sprint.
9th over: India 36-2 (Gill 20, Rahane 8) Chasing 70 – Josh Hazlewood replaces Starc and he’s immediately on a perfect line and length, forcing Rahane to play consistently from the crease. The Indian skipper does so with a perfect technique, using soft hands, playing the ball under his nose, and keeping his bat and pad together.
8th over: India 36-2 (Gill 20, Rahane 8) Chasing 70 – Cummins appeals for LBW against Rahane but there was a hot spot the size of a full moon on the inside-edge. It’s an example of how Cummins is trying to set up the Indian skipper, pushing him back with short balls then hurling down off-cutters to trap him on the crease. Rahane is patient and holds his form until there’s a chance to lean forward and ease three runs through the offside. India now more than halfway towards their victory target.
“My Ampleforth chum Dallers has offered me a chair in the Long Room for the 4th day of the ICC final in mid-2021,” emails David Griffiths. “NZ wouldn’t make it to a 4th day, I’m pretty sure – they just don’t have the batting moxie to compete; but India do and I am praying for an Indian win today, as seems assured. Please call it in Jon, so that I may take my seat at Lord’s, to watch the planet’s two premier sides.”
I wouldn’t write NZ off so fast. Kane Williamson is a superstar and one of five Kiwis in the top-25 of the ICC’s Test batting rankings. They’re in rare form right now too.
7th over: India 33-2 (Gill 20, Rahane 5) Chasing 70 – Gill racks up another boundary, his third, with a back cut that spent a worrying amount time in the air. That was a length delivery from Starc but the debutant plays with great intent. Boundary four arrives soon after to a similar part of the boundary, but this was a thick outside edge, played with soft hands, that runs through the gap between gully and second slip.
6th over: India 23-2 (Gill 10, Rahane 4) Chasing 70 – India couldn’t throw it away from here, surely? Australia are cock-a-hoop and doubtless making all sorts of references to the Adelaide 36ers. It needs a cool head out in the middle, and there are none cooler than Ajinkya Rahane who gets back and across early to a Cummins bumper and pulls with ease through square-leg for four. The bowler responds by thudding another shortish delivery into the Indian skipper’s solar plexus.
WICKET! Pujara c Green b Cummins 3 (India 19-2)
Oh boy. Is it on? It might be on, you know. Perfect fourth stump line and length from Cummins and Pujara’s soft hands suddenly turn to stone as he pushes a thick edge to Green in the gully. I bloody love Test cricket.
5th over: India 19-1 (Gill 11, Pujara 3) Chasing 70 – Starc gets the early breakthrough, as he so often does. Will it send a tremor through the India dressing room?
WICKET! Agarwal c Paine b Starc 5 (India 16-1)
Length from Starc angling across Agarwal and he drives with his hands miles away from his body and chases a routine edge through to Paine. That might be the last we see of the out-of-form opener this series. That extravagant backlift just does not look appropriate against this attack.
4th over: India 15-0 (Agarwal 5, Gill 10) Chasing 70 – Cummins keeps Agarwal circumspect for most of a probing over but he still manages to push a couple through the covers.
3rd over: India 13-0 (Agarwal 3, Gill 10) Chasing 70 – Now Gill presents the full face of the bat and sends the new ball skipping past the non-striker’s stumps and into the sightscreen for another boundary. The kid is a serious player.
“Andy Zaltzman’s stats were mildly diverting,” emails Ben Mimmack, “until I realised Alex Tudor made his debut 22 years ago and now I just feel very very old.” I know, Tudor is one of the players immortalised in amber as an up-and-comer, such was his impressive start and subsequent injury-ravaged career. The disappointment was made worse because of how nice a guy he was/is and how he represented just about the last in an important line of black British fast bowlers.
2nd over: India 9-0 (Agarwal 3, Gill 6) Chasing 70 – What can Pat Cummins do? Not much to begin with. His first ball is a wide half-volley that is caressed through the covers for four by Gill with all the effortless timing of Michael Vaughan or Damien Martyn in their pomp. Cummins eases into his work and gets some movement off the seam to appeal half-heartedly for LBW against Agarwal, then sends one fizzing past his outside edge with the Indian opener groping around his crease a la Joe Burns.
“What’s the recommendation for the best Australian Test venue for an England fan to immerse themselves in the Ashes experience?” emails Mick Collins. For me, Adelaide then daylight. It’s a superb ground, a great city for a short break, and set up perfectly for a touring experience. Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, are all on a level in my opinion, with Brisbane a long way last. Sorry Queenslanders, I just don’t enjoy the Gabba.
1st over: India 2-0 (Agarwal 1, Gill 1) Chasing 70 – Wonderful start from Starc, smashing Agarwal in his box first ball then cutting him in half two deliveries later with one that nips back off a length at searing pace. The Indian opener then avoids a pair with a streaky inside-edge. Gill’s first ball is a half-volley on leg stump that is middled fiercely – but straight to Wade under the lid at short-leg. The fielder saves four, and receives a meaty bruise on his left pec for his troubles, while Brian Close mutters from the heavens how a simple chance has been put down.
The players are back out in the middle for what should be the final session of this Test match. Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill will begin the chase of the meagre victory target of 70, Mitchell Starc will be the first Australian to interrupt India’s progress.
This list is a good example of how long it can take for a narrative to shift. The widespread assumption that Australia are not just the better team, but a formidable outfit – especially in home conditions – is proving increasingly threadbare. It also goes to show how much Steve Smith’s extraordinary run has glued this unit together.
As it happens, Collum Fordham has done just that, emailing: “Watching the match in Naples in the early hours with my son Alex. Fascinated by Ashwin’s bowling. He should’ve got a wicket in his last over. His variations seem to include both a leggie with a complete change of action or the subtler carrom ball which moved in like a leggie but bowled out of the front of the hand, completely deceiving the batsman but umpire’s call. In the end, he gets Hazelwood with a classic offspinner’s delivery which only just turned. What a bowler.”
Indeed he is, and enjoying a superb series, the likes of which touring offies are not supposed to have. I’ve been especially impressed with the patience and resilience of India’s attack as a whole in these opening couple of Tests, including debutant Mohammed Siraj, who looks a fine player.
Hello everyone, I’ll be with you until the close of play, which should be around a couple of hours from now, right? Unless India crack like a cartoon frozen lake and drag this excellent Test match into the final session of play.
Thanks G. Love, go enjoy some sauce on a lukewarm press box gristle party pie.
India will need 70 to win
Australia’s lead ends up at 69 runs. Not so nice. India have turned this series around, and now only need to finish off their work. Australia could still create some nerves with two or three early wickets, but given the tailenders looked relatively comfortable batting out there, it should be fine. The roller is on the wicket, the lunch break is taken, and India’s batsmen will emerge in 40 minutes to try to level this series 1-1.
That’s the end of my time with you for this Test match. I’ll see you for the third, be it in Melbourne or Sydney or the Whitsunday Islands. For the fourth and final innings, and whatever twists it may bring, I will leave you with the lovely Jonathan Parfait Howcroft.
If you want something to keep you entertained during the break, I may be biased but I’d recommend this conversation with commentator Jim Maxwell about his life in cricket.
WICKET! Hazlewood b Ashwin 10, Australia all out 200
103.1 overs: Australia 200 (Starc 14)
That’s the end of it! Lovely bowling from Ashwin in the last over before the delayed break. He flights it up, loops it, turns it from about leg stump across the batsman. Hazlewood wants to reach the break and leaves the ball. But it doesn’t quite turn enough, and it clips the top of off stump on its way through.
If that were a DRS call, it would be not out.
103rd over: Australia 200-9 (Starc 14, Hazlewood 10) Australia’s 200 comes up! That didn’t look likely earlier. Hazlewood squeezes a single through the cordon. Bumrah the bowler. Two minutes until lunch.
102nd over: Australia 199-9 (Starc 14, Hazlewood 9) Starc finally opens the shoulders a bit, but sensibly, pulling through square leg along the ground for two. The last ball of the over is another DRS debacle. Not the fault of the technology, but the regulations. Ashwin bowls a carrom ball, hitting Starc in front of leg stump. The umpire says not out for height. India’s review shows it clattering into the off bail. But according to the ICC rules, the bails don’t count as part of the stumps. Nor do the tops of the stumps. There’s a line across the stumps from the bottom of the grooves, and half the ball has to be below that to overturn a decision. So you can smash the top of the stumps and it’s still not out.
101st over: Australia 197-9 (Starc 12, Hazlewood 9) This last-wicket pair just coasting along calmly. No massive swipes, no gallops. Starc glances Siraj for another single. Hazlewood defends. They’re doing well.
100th over: Australia 196-9 (Starc 11, Hazlewood 9) I neglected to mention that we’ve had the session extended because Australia are nine wickets down. Lunch was due 10 minutes ago but we’ll get an extra half hour. Bumrah continues to Starc, who glances a single, then to Hazlewood, who drives nicely through cover for two. Bumrah doesn’t like that, immediately forcing him back with a short ball. Hazlewood is catching up to Starc here which is unexpected.
The lead is 65.
99th over: Australia 193-9 (Starc 10, Hazlewood 7) Goodness me, lovely bowling. The control of line from Siraj has been excellent, a right-armer bowling across a left-hander, but always close enough to make him play. Hazlewood has fresh-air pokes at a couple of shorter balls, then a fuller one that so nearly takes his edge. Still, he survives. Another maiden.
98th over: Australia 193-9 (Starc 10, Hazlewood 7) Bumrah has changed ends and is now approaching with the Southern Stand at his back. Hazlewood has first ball and does well, deflecting a bouncer behind square for a run. Knew what was coming. Starc gets no opportunity for a big shot, instead getting a good yorker that he does well to keep out, squirting a single to fine leg. There’s also a third man who is placed so fine that he’s basically behind second slip. India anticipating top edges. One regulation slip, one floating slip, and one gully. Hazlewood comes forward to defend and gets a run to a vacant square leg.
The lead is 62.
97th over: Australia 190-9 (Starc 9, Hazlewood 5) Time for Starc to pull out the big shots in a minute. Josh Hazlewood has strike with two balls left in the over. And he gets off the mark with a five! How often would that happen in anyone’s career, let alone Hazlewood’s? Siraj bowls short, there’s no short leg, Hazlewood fends the ball there, leg slip runs in and fires at the non-striker’s end as he goes through, and the overthrows reach the long-on fence.
The lead is 59.
WICKET! Lyon c Pant b Siraj 3, Australia 185-9
Never mind, India. There’s a wicket. Not inspiring cricket: Siraj down the leg side, Lyon tries to pull around the corner from about hip high, and gloves it through to Pant. The lead is 54 with one wicket remaining.
96th over: Australia 185-8 (Starc 9, Lyon 3) Jadeja to bowl, as the bowlers keep changing. It’s like a T20 here, making sure the tailenders don’t feel settled. Jadeja bowls left-arm over to the left-hander, a line outside off that has Starc sparring. When Jadeja goes straighter Starc whips off his pads in the air, low, but it bounces before reaching midwicket. He plays to that position again and this time Pujara misfields and they get two runs.
Then from the last ball of the over we’re upstairs for another long DRS. Jadeja spears in at the pads and Starc tries to play across it to midwicket. It squeezes between bat onto pad and lobs up to slip. Umpire Reiffel gives it out immediately. Starc reviews with a shrug. The replay shows his bat hit his boot, while just missing the ball. He’s still at risk of lbw though, except the projection shows it missing leg stump! Starc survives double jeopardy.
95th over: Australia 183-8 (Starc 7, Lyon 3) The field keeps changing: a leg slip in now for Lyon facing Siraj, with cover left open. Short midwicket, three in the cordon, two out for the hook. A couple of bumpers to start the over have Lyon getting out of the way, and I think asking the umpire how many short balls they’re allowed to bowl. Maybe he was just wiping sweep from his forehead. Siraj comes around the wicket for some reason, and pitches full, and predictably it hits Lyon’s pad and goes for a leg bye. Siraj was spinning to appeal just by muscle memory before remembering that there was no way he could get an lbw when bowling from outside the line of the player’s leg stump. Starc hasn’t score a run in a while, but flicks a single nicely to fine leg. We still haven’t seen a single big shot from Starc today, which is uncharacteristic.
The lead is 52.
94th over: Australia 181-8 (Starc 6, Lyon 3) Ashwin to Lyon, and now we’ve got three catchers around the bat: slip, leg slip, short leg. The off-spinner drives cleanly straight back at the off-spinner. Then opens the face and drives behind point, taking a run. For Starc, three deep on the leg side, plus a midwicket 20 yards away. Ashwin turns one past the outside edge of a groping defensive shot, that was close. Starc kicks away a ball outside leg stump, then Ashwin tries his leg-break, a ball he sometimes throws in for variation, and lands it nicely on off stump, Starc also defending it well off the back foot.
93rd over: Australia 180-8 (Starc 6, Lyon 2) Always an entertainer with the bat, Nathan ‘Nathan’ Lyon faces up to Siraj in his bendy-kneed, bobbing kind of way. Loves to open up the off side and hit to cover, but gets stopped when he goes that way. Just two slips and a gully. Short midwicket in. Now Rahane pulls out cover and pops in a leg gully as well. Short ball coming? There’s a deep square leg, just in front of square, and a long leg behind. Lyon doesn’t mind the short ball too much though, loves a pull shot. And plays one, down to long leg for a single. For Starc there’s a third man very deep, and a deep square leg, with mid-on halfway back as well. No one within 40 metres of the batsman on the leg side. But Siraj bowls off side, from around the wicket, and draws a poking shot that nearly edges.
The lead is 49.
92nd over: Australia 179-8 (Starc 6, Lyon 1) The lead is 46 as Ashwin comes on for the next over, Starc and Lyon the partnership. They add a couple of singles promptly. Nothing extravagant.
WICKET! Green c Jadeja b Siraj 45, Australia 177-8
91st over: Australia 177-8 (Starc 5) The over starts with Siraj to Starc, right-armer to left-hander over the wicket, wheeling around in an appeal but that was likely pitching outside leg and maybe even hitting him outside leg. Some swing on show. Starc drives hard at the next ball but mid-on is deep enough to dive across and keep the scoring to one. Green gets enough width to leave, but comes forward to the next to on-drive for four! What a beautiful shot. Simple, elegant, that was the fine linen bedsheet of cricket.
But the bed gets unmade from the last ball of the over. Short, about rib height, he pulls instinctively. It’s there for the shot. He gets a good piece of it, but hits it up rather than down, and Jadeja at midwicket gets off the ground to claim the catch above his head. Green throws back his own head in frustration. He can’t believe he didn’t nail that contact better. He’s played a gem, but needed it to shine for longer.
90th over: Australia 172-7 (Green 42, Starc 4) Jadeja on for Ashwin, left-arm orthodox for off-spin. He’s giving the ball air against Starc, outside off. Just watch for the faster one darted in at the stumps. Three flighted deliveries in a row. From the fourth, Starc swishes across the line and gets a run to deep backward square. Jadeja comes around the wicket to the right-handed Green, who stretches forward to defend and then goes back to defend. Between those two extremes he seems to be able to cover about eight metres of pitch.
89th over: Australia 171-7 (Green 41, Starc 3) Siraj comes on for Bumrah already. Rahane has been quick with the changes. It almost brings India a stroke of luck as Green drives into the non-striker’s stumps via Siraj’s fingers, but Starc backing up has just got his bat down in time. Maiden.
88th over: Australia 171-7 (Green 41, Starc 3) Still the sensible play from Starc. He has a short midwicket, a midwicket halfway back, and a deep backward square, all for the big shots from the spinner. He blocks away until the sixth ball, which he wrists behind square along the ground, and darts back for two runs.