India have a fighting chance to draw, or even win the Test match as they go into lunch with 7 wickets in hand. Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara brought up a century stand after Rahane went early, with Pant making the most of being promoted over Hanuma Vihari.
Australia will rue the dropped chances off Nathan Lyon’s bowling as they go into the break. The hosts started brilliantly, getting Rahane in the second over of the day but from thereon it was one-way traffic, as Pant and Pujara got the better of the Australian attack.
Brief scores: India 206/3 (Rishabh Pant 73*, Rohit Sharma 52; Josh Hazlewood 1/20, Pat Cummins 1/42) and 244 all out trail Australia 338 all out and 312/6 d (Cameron Green 84, Steve Smith 81; Navdeep Saini 2/54, Ravichandran Ashwin 2/95) by 201 runs
India began Day 5 hoping to see Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara bat for the majority of the day as they tried to save the Sydney Test.
But that plan didn’t last long. Nathan Lyon opened the bowling alongside Pat Cummins, and the spinner was in action straight away. Ajinkya Rahane got an inside edge on a tossed-up delivery by Lyon, with Matthew Wade completing the catch at short leg.
India's Pant masterstoke pays off
Rishabh Pant and not Hanuma Vihari came into bat next, as the left-hander got an unexpected promotion. While India dropped a few catches on Day 4, it was Australia’s turn to do the same today.
The spinner could have gotten his second wicket in about 4 overs, but Tim Paine couldn’t hold onto the catch and Pant got a lifeline early on. Lyon looked the most threatening out of all Australian bowlers, as he spun a web around India’s batsmen.
Cheteshwar Pujara was up to the task, blocking everything that came his way. Rishabh Pant was uncharacteristically patient at the start as well, with the batsman looking in some discomfort after getting hit on the elbow on Day 3.
But that didn’t stop him from attacking Lyon once he got his eye in. Pant smashed Nathan Lyon for a 13-run over, using his feet to hit the spinner for a four and a six. That over broke the shackles, as the India wicketkeeper counter-attacked impressively, while Pujara held one end up.
The two contrasting styles of batting complimented each other well, and Rishabh Pant showed great resolve to combine patience with aggression. He reached his fifty in just 61 balls despite having been on 5 off 33 balls at one stage. Pant was particularly impressive against Lyon, as he continued to shimmy down the pitch and take on the Aussie spinner.
The left-hander rode his luck once again, as Paine couldn’t hold on to another one off Lyon’s bowling. Lyon’s poor luck continued, as a Cheteshwar Pujara edge then didn’t carry to first slip.
Things slowed down during the closing stages of the morning session, as the two India batsmen got through to Lunch without losing a wicket. The period still brought about a milestone, as Pujara used his feet brilliantly off Lyon to bring up the century of the partnership.
India would know that they still have a mountain to climb. The visitors will look to bat out the second session without losing a wicket, and then try for a win in the final one.
As for Australia, Rishabh Pant’s dynamism and Cheteshwar Pujara's resoluteness would have planted a seed of doubt in their minds. The hosts will try and regroup during the break, as they look to break the century stand post-lunch.Published 11 Jan 2021, 07:24 IST