Udayavni Special

Australia extend lead to 276 as rain forces early tea

PTI, Jan 18, 2021, 11:36 AM IST

Steve Smith’s attacking half-century took Australia’s overall lead to 276 even as India’s greenhorn bowlers put their best foot forward during the first two sessions on the fourth day of the final Test here on Monday.

At tea taken an over early because of rain, Australia were 243 for 7, aiming to set a target which India might find enticing enough to chase on a Gabba track which is starting to misbehave slightly with a few cracks opening at one end.

The highest fourth-innings chase at the ground is 236 by the West Indies, way back in 1951.

Among Indian pacers, Mohammed Siraj produced a well-disguised short ball that grew on Smith (55 off 74 balls) getting him caught at gully. He had earlier produced the ball of the innings to dismiss Marnus Labuschagne (25 off 22 balls) in the first session of the day.

Along with Shardul Thakur (3/41 in 14.1 overs), easily the best Indian bowler in the second innings, Siraj (15-5-42-3) got the wickets but Australians scored at a good rate (3.67), having factored in the inclement weather.

If rain doesn’t cause further interruption, Australians have 137 overs across four sessions to enforce a result.

Two engrossing sessions of high-quality Test match cricket were on display on Monday with Australian openers David Warner (48 off 75 balls) and Marcus Harris (38 off 82 balls) providing a rollicking start.

This was followed by the inexperienced Indian bunch coming back to effect a mini-collapse by taking four wickets.

The second session also witnessed fortunes swing as Smith attacked the Indian bowlers, found catches being dropped before three wickets kept the visitors’ spirits high. In the first session, between Warner (6×4) and Harris (8×4), they hit 14 boundaries as Siraj and Thangarasu Natarajan (14-4-41-0) erred in length during the first hour.

Finally, it was a sharp bouncer from Thakur, that ended Harris’ entertaining knock. He tried to sway away but the ball brushed his gloves on way to Rishabh Pant behind stumps.

In the very next over, Warner, who was in sight of his first half-century of the series, was rapped on the backfoot by Washington who bowled one that kept straight. The opener ended up being cramped for room on the back-foot while going for the cut-shot.

Labuschagne hit five boundaries and was in no mood to drop the tempo before Siraj bowled the ball of the session.

Having been too short during the first spell, the delivery was on the off-stump and moved a shade before Rohit Sharma took a regulation catch at second slip.

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