It’s Cummins’ turn to spray down the leg-side, but his follow-up is on the money, forcing Ashwin to fend an inside-edge into his ribs. That looked painful. You know what comes next – out comes the physio.
100th over: India 284-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 11) Target 407 / 32 overs remaining – Australia’s tactics are not sophisticated – Hazlewood is bowling to four catchers on the leg-side and hammering the ball into the pitch and towards Ashwin’s tenderised flesh. As is so often the case, the approach disrupts the bowler’s line and length and he ends up straying down leg and eventually offering an easy deflected single behind square.
99th over: India 283-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 10) Target 407 – Consecutive leading edges for Ashwin. After surviving Hazlewood he almost offers a return catch to Cummins but this time loops one agonisingly over the bowler in his follow through. An easy single materialises to rotate the strike. Vihari continues his vigil.
On the Indian balcony Jadeja is seen requesting a banana, but requiring the assistance of a teammate to peel and hold it for him, such is the pain, and/or numbness, in his left thumb.
98th over: India 282-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 9) Target 407 – At Tea Australia’s analysts have clearly told their pacemen to go upstairs to Ashwin. Hazlewood is the latest to send down a rising missile that clips Ashwin’s right shoulder, followed up by one that doesn’t get up much and smashes him in the sternum. The speeds are all low-mid 130kph but it’s brutal. What can Ashwin do? He flicks from off stump to the leg-side and gets a steepling leading edge. Is there a fielder under it? Nope. Vihari limps through for a single.
97th over: India 281-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 8) Target 407 – After surviving that early trial by bouncer Ashwin shows his resolve to defend from the crease, then work a single into the leg-side. Ordinarily it would be two, but Vihari’s hamstring prevents any more than a casual saunter down the pitch. He sees out the over.
Following that first ball drama, guess what? ANOTHER INJURY! Cummins sends down another beautiful bouncer, this one cannons into Ashwin’s right shoulder and the phsyio is back out again with the magic spray. India’s No.7 is soon able to continue. This is a thrilling start to the session. Terrifying fast bowling from Cummins.
NOT OUT! Drama immediately after Tea. Cummins slips a nasty bumper at Ashwin who fends and loops a catch to the diving Paine who only just got his webbing under the ball. Ashwin reviews and it’s clear the ball looped off the armguard, not the glove, the only question is whether it grazed the glove on the way through. The decision is no, it didn’t.
First ball after Tea and Cummins has Ashwin caught behind… or does he?
Ok, the players are back out on the field. The next 36 overs, across two-and-a-half hours or so, promises to be gripping.
“Me and the SCG go back a LONG way,” begins Peter. “I used to go sit on the Hill back in the good old days of the 60s when God was in His Heaven, Dougie was thrashing any and all, eskis were chocka, and the Hill was the Hill. Much of the fun was banter with whatever fielder was in ear shot (later on I moved to Melbourne and Bay 13 of the MCG. Same thing). But even then: there was an etiquette. We might have said many things to the opposing side fielders —and to our side too. Among them, the immortal comment to the notoriously slow-scoring Jim Burke, a stalwart for NSW: “Burkey, I wish I were a pigeon and you were a statue”. We might have called the Poms “bloody Poms”. But racist abuse? I believe and hope, never. If anyone had ever ventured such a thing, we would have shut him up. I am saddened to hear not just that a gang of drunk idiots said such a thing. But even more, that decent cricket Ozzies sitting around did not shut them up.”
Tea – India 280-5 chasing 407 with 36 overs remaining
96th over: India 280-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 7) Target 407 – Ashwin safely deals with four Lyon deliveries so that prompts the bowler to come around the wicket and Paine to bring in four chattering catchers around the bat. The result is a streaky edge away for a single. Vihari keeps out the final delivery and “Tea” is called. The end of an engrossing session in what has been a fascinating day. 36 overs remain, all four results are still in play.
95th over: India 279-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 6) Target 407 – The pattern continues of India dead-batting Australia away. Vihari sees off Starc again with no alarm. The hamstrung No.6 is now four from 51 deliveries.
37 overs remain.
94th over: India 279-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 6) Target 407 – Ashwin plays Lyon watchfully, plonking his front foot down the pitch and bringing his bat down alongside it, with no gap for the bowler to penetrate. One thick edge was a regulation single, but Vihari is far from regulation fitness.
93rd over: India 279-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 6) Target 407 – Mitchell Starc returns for a burst, bowling his left-arm rockets from around the wicket to the right-handed Vihari. The batsman makes little attempt to move his feet or show any initiative, dead batting anything on his stumps and aiming tentative prods outside off, one of which just missed the outside edge after keeping low.
92nd over: India 279-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 6) Target 407 – Beautiful over from Lyon, testing Ashwin on the inside and outside. The Indian spinner defends from the crease and survives a DRS review then opens his shoulders and clouts a length ball over cow corner for four. Maybe India are operating Plan A and a half, and not fully Plan B after all.
The ball did not strike Ashwin’s bat or gloves on the way in or the way out of his forward defence before popping up to silly point. Australia down to just one review.
Lyon thinks he has Ashwin caught at bat pad. Umpire Reiffel disagrees.
91st over: India 275-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 2) Target 407 – Vihari dots out a Hazlewood maiden. India do appear to have begun Plan B. They have 41 overs to survive.
David Markham emails in: “While everybody talks about whether a shot is played or not for LBW, can I point out that that is not what Law 38 says. It talks about ‘a genuine attempt to play the ball with the bat’. If you plant your front forward with your bat tucked in behind the pad, you are not making a genuine attempt to play the ball with the bat.”
The definition of genuine – determined by the umpires – seems not to be agreed upon by Nathan Lyon and Cheteshwar Pujara. Not that it matters much for this match any more.
90th over: India 275-5 (Vihari 4, Ashwin 2) Target 407 – Lyon ripping through his work, trying to hurry India. Ashwin picks up an easy single then Vihari is beaten by a wider ball that barely bounces. A further easy single ends the over.
89th over: India 273-5 (Vihari 3, Ashwin 1) Target 407 – Ashwin comes to the crease ahead of Jadeja and he defends three deliveries then calls Vihari through for a quick single, seemingly oblivious to his partner’s injury. Vihari barely breaks into a jog and would have been run out with a direct hit from mid-on. Surely India’s approach now adapts to digging in for a draw?
WICKET! Pujara b Hazlewood 77 (India 272-5)
Bosh! Josh Hazlewood lands the new ball on a perfect length, it holds its line, ghosts its way past Pujara’s defensive blade and clatters into off stump. In a match of massive moments, that may prove the massivest. Brilliant bowling to end an magnificent innings lasting 205 deliveries.
88th over: India 272-4 (Pujara 77, Vihari 3) Target 407 – An eventful over begins with Nathan Lyon bellowing for an LBW against Pujara despite the ball striking the pad outside off stump and a shot clearly played. It’s obvious Australia’s interpretation of a shot is different to that of Paul Reiffel and Che Pujara this series. Then all the action revolves around Vihari’s hammy.
Still nowhere near the best hamstring injury on Australian TV.
Vihari defends one ball from Lyon, then confers with Pujara, looking very likely he’s about to retire. But he’s convinced to stay on.
The physio applies a compression bandage to Vihari’s right hamstring. In the commentary box, the best of the bunch by the length of the Flemington straight – Ricky Ponting – suggests if Vihari’s running is compromised he should retire hurt. His inability to run will halt India’s run-chase. However, he could return later to plug up an end if his side ends up blocking out for a draw.
While there’s a break in play, can anyone add anything to this enquiry?
A slight delay for – you’ll never believe it – another Indian injury. Vihari and Pujara scampered through for a quick single and it ended with the former pulling up very gingerly and clutching at his right buttock. On comes the physio…
87th over: India 271-4 (Pujara 76, Vihari 3) Target 407 – Hazlewood replaces Cummins and his first delivery is on the money – and edged into the ground and through the gully region for four! Australia’s pacemen continue to attack the stumps, looking to exploit the variable bounce rather than work with swing and seam to tickle the outside edge.
Hmmm. Pucovski has now left the field for treatment.
86th over: India 266-4 (Pujara 71, Vihari 3) Target 407 – Marnus Labsuchagne saved four from silly point, puffing his cheeks out instead of demonstrating pain, then later in the over Pucovski dived awkwardly on his right shoulder, drawing concerned looks from teammates already aware of his preexisting condition. The young Victorian continues. Vihari inches India two runs closer to history.
85th over: India 264-4 (Pujara 71, Vihari 1) Target 407 – Vihari gets off the mark with a stab behind square on the leg-side in a Cummins over where the plan of attack is very straight. There are only two slips in place, despite the brand new ball. A reflection of the fine balance Paine now faces between attack and defence, and also the nature of the surface and the presumed preferred method for taking wickets.
Meanwhile, Jadeja has emerged padded up on the balcony!
Thank you very much G-banger, what a pleasure it is to step into the hotseat at such an extraordinary moment. Rishabh Pant has already treated us to one of the great fourth-innings performances, a knock that has turned a humdrum Monday from a procession to something containing that wondrous crackle of possibility that only the fifth day of a Test match can deliver.
Three hours remain. All four results are very much alive. Let’s get it on.
84th over: India 262-4 (Pujara 70, Vihari 0) The new batsman will have to find a way into the game. Vihari sees out a maiden from Hazlewood, and that will be drinks.
What a day. I’ll be watching rest avidly to see what more is to come. There’s nothing like that low, building, burbling excitement of a fifth-day classic. That’s it for me on the OBO today. For the final stages, the throne room scene, I shall leave you with the lithe and fearsome Jonathan Puma Howcroft.
83rd over: India 262-4 (Pujara 70, Vihari 0) Pujara keeps going, driving the first ball of Cummins’ new over for four. Too full, a simple push through the line. Next ball, much more flourish, back cuts for four! Got width, got all of it, wafting the wrists to get the bat moving in a circular motion and make the ball vanish to backward point.
Cummins corrects, and that’s three in a row! Cheteshwar Pujara, you rogue. A straighter line and so he drives through mid-on this time, sweetly timed. No one anywhere near it. This makes things interesting for Australia. Three boundaries in a row off Cummins with the shiny new Kooka.
India need 145 to win. If this pair can get that to double figures things will get extremely interesting.
82nd over: India 250-4 (Pujara 58, Vihari 0) A good sign from Vihari, as he comes onto the front foot to drive Hazlewood crisply, though it gets stopped at cover. A maiden in the end.
Aditya Anchuri was prescient not long before the Pant wicket. “Hoping I’m proved wrong, but India still has an extremely small chance of avoiding defeat. Essentially we need to have a perfect session, where we go into tea 3 (at most 4) wickets down. And even then, in the final session against this Aussie attack one more wicket will draw a collapse (especially with Jadeja unfit to bat).”
81st over: India 250-4 (Pujara 58, Vihari 0) The new ball, Cummins, all that jazz. How will India go about it? At Headingley, Bairstow came in after a wicket around the time of the second new ball, and attacked it to take 66 from it with Ben Stokes from about 10 overs. The bowlers will be tiring. But this batting pair are the men least likely to take to the bowling. Cummins gets some good deck off the seam, cutting into Pujara an absolute mile. Keeps it out of his stomach off the gloves. Then movement away from Pujara, who resists playing at it.
So what’s the scenario? 157 runs needed from 51 overs. No wickets to play with. But, that’s only three an over. If this pair can keep working the runs down, that will make life harder for Australia. That seems the better approach than just defending.
80th over: India 250-4 (Pujara 58, Vihari 0) Lyon gets five balls at Hanuma Vihari, another right-hander, who blocks them out. Labuschagne is getting sledged by his own teammates after he starts chattering again. “Don’t just chat when we get a wicket, Marnus, got to keep it going all day,” says Warner. And now it’s time for the new ball.
Well, I’m sorry to Robert Smithson, who wrote a few minutes ago wishing luck to Pant.
“I’m in London, and about to go to bed. All a test cricket fan ever really wants is for a match to go down to the last session on the last day, and it seems that somehow that’s what we might just get. I haven’t even been watching this test, just reading it, and it’s glorious stuff. So thank you Rishabh Pant for being a lunatic and thank you Geoff & pals for telling us about it.”
WICKET! Pant c Cummins b Lyon 97
Aaaaaaahhhh he falls! Short of the ton, and well short of the win, but Rishabh Pant has changed the game. The way he played was always going to bring that risk. He advances at Lyon, looks to drive through cover again, but Lyon gets enough purchase and turn. Takes the thick outside edge to backward point where Cummins dives forward and claims a good low catch. Celebrations for Australia, while Pant walks off trailing his bat on the ground like Paul Bunyan dragging his axes. What an entertainer, what a fight.
79th over: India 250-3 (Pujara 58, Pant 97) Green coming in over the wicket, bowls short and Pujara pulls for four! The first pull shot I can recall him playing in this innings. That was played with authority, middled along the ground through square leg, precise as you like. The set-square and compass man, Pujara. (No, not saying that he’s a Freemason.)
78th over: India 246-3 (Pujara 54, Pant 97) Pujara still using the dancefloor approach to Lyon, flicking square and taking a single as Cummins dives across from midwicket. Pant drives a run down the ground. Pujara goes to square leg again. They’re milking the spin effectively now. Pant takes on Lyon once more, charging and flogging it flat to long on. Shouts of catch but the man is too square and Hazlewood can’t get there. And when Pant attacks Lyon, he attacks in twos. Down the track, bat-pad flinches, cover sprawls, but Pant has opened the face and slayed it through cover for four more!
He’s on 97, and India need 161 to win!
“I think Cummins is possibly the only Australian bowler immune to thoughts of Stokes with the lead under 200. 12 overs on the trot from that man, thanks,” writes Eamonn Maloney. I suspect you’ll see that in two overs once the new ball arrives.
77th over: India 235-3 (Pujara 52, Pant 88) Green bowling, and Pant won’t put his shots away as the day goes on. Gets width, throws the full IKEA display kitchen at it, and slices it over the slips for four! There’s a deep backward point almost, for Pant, rather than a traditional third man, but he can’t get around. Next ball? Same again! Width, swing, and this one more outside edge than slice, and it goes a little finer. Next ball? Wide, swings, drives it hard to cover for no run.
55 overs left, 172 to win.
Headingley klaxon! “Paine, Labuschagne, Wade, Warner, Lyon, Cummins and Hazlewood must be getting a few harrowing flashbacks to Leeds a year last September…” writes Ian Forth.
Fifty! Pujara 52 from 170 balls
76th over: India 227-3 (Pujara 52, Pant 80) The half-century for Pujara with a beauty, dancing down at Lyon, whipping hard with a lot of wrist, on the bounce and nutmegs Wade at short leg before smoothly rolling for a boundary at deep square leg. He’s found a method against Lyon and it’s worked so far. 180 to win.
75th over: India 223-3 (Pujara 48, Pant 80) Green bowling instead of Starc now. I reckon this plays in India’s favour, letting them get their eyes in ahead of facing the second new ball. Pant drives Green out through cover for three, and that gives David Warner’s groin a workout (if you’ll forgive the image) as he chases it to the rope and keeps it in. Pujara just ducks and weaves against the rest, including one bouncer so high and tailing so far that it’s called a wide. When Green pitches up, Pujara on-drives a single. The runs keep coming, 184 to win in 57 overs.
74th over: India 218-3 (Pujara 47, Pant 77) Lyon to Pant, who cuts hard and gets a thick bottom edge into Paine’s shin pad behind the stumps and then to slip. Hope no one tries to claim that one as a drop, that was rocketing. As a contrast, Pant sedately turns away a single to allow Pujara to block out the rest. Pujara has 6000 runs in Test cricket after that last over. He’s faced over 13,000 balls to get them.
73rd over: India 217-3 (Pujara 47, Pant 76) Short from Starc and an uppercut from Pujara for four! Quite the shot. Just instinct I think, Starc angles the ball in at Pujara from around the wicket, and while first thinking of protecting himself Pujara just opens the face of the bat late and deflects it high over the cordon to the boundary. Then shapes to pull but bails out, before nudging away a less short ball for a run. Pant pulls a single to follow. 190 to win.
72nd over: India 211-3 (Pujara 42, Pant 75) Lyon to start proceedings to Rishabh Pant, with that bat-pad in place on the off side. Pant skips immediately and drives a run to long-on. Some ODI batting. Pujara comes down as well and flicks away, and it’s a chance but a near impossible one. Wade at short leg sidesteps with Pujara as he advances, and the shot is middle straight into Wade’s hand and then away to midwicket. He was hit by the ball, there was no chance of seeing it, but it could have looped up somewhere. To follow up, Pujara scores a run to point.
The target is under 200 now. 199 to win.
71st over: India 209-3 (Pujara 41, Pant 74) Starc will resume after lunch, this is interesting. Hazlewood and Cummins are the danger pair after a pause, but are they being saved for the new ball? It’s 10 overs away. Starc bumps Pant, and clips him on the side of the helmet. Not a blow that does damage, it’s angled across him and flies away to third man for two leg byes. Another short ball and Pant pulls a run to fine leg. With the right-hander on strike though, Starc is bowling like a busted. Wide or down the leg side, easy to leave.
Lunch – India 206 for 3, with 62 overs left and 201 to win
What a session of Test cricket: that’s as good as just about anything else I’ve seen. Hazlewood, Cummins, Lyon all bowling really well. The anticipation overnight, the dismissal of India’s captain early. But then the masterstroke of sending the team’s most attacking player out there, something that may not have worked nine times out of ten, but this is the ten. Rishabh Pant took them on like you rarely see in Test cricket, hitting three sixes and eight fours, and severely disrupting Australia’s premier spinner.
Australia’s problems have been Starc bowling poorly and Paine’s two dropped catches behind the wicket. He’ll get plenty of scrutiny for those, although I’d class them as the type that a keeper doesn’t have control over: they either hit the gloves or they don’t.
The numbers still say it’s Australia’s Test: the likelihood is that the one erratic ball will come along, the partnership will end, and the probable result will arrive. But for now, the chance of something far more remarkable happening survives. Enjoy that feeling while you contemplate your sandwiches.
70th over: India 206-3 (Pujara 41, Pant 73) Last over before lunch, Lyon to Pujara, a slip and twin bat-pads either side of him, but Pujara isn’t shutting up shop when he sees the slightest touch of shortness, stepping back and cracking it through cover point for four!
Neil Titterington emails. “I cannot be the only Aussie sat here not-so-secretly willing India on here, can I?! After the troubling events yesterday, I would genuinely love for them to be able to give the ultimate two fingers to those so-called Australian fans.”
69th over: India 202-3 (Pujara 37, Pant 73) Cummins to Pant, around the wicket, but Pant is playing circumspectly for the time being, blocking and leaving. Cummins tries an off-break slower ball but it’s outside the stumps and left alone. Pant ducks a bouncer rather than hooking it. Two minutes until lunch is probably why. Maiden over.
68th over: India 202-3 (Pujara 37, Pant 73) Lyon gets his shot at Pant, has men in the deep, so Pant happily pushes a single through cover point. That makes 100 runs in the session for India. Pujara advances and defends, knocking the ball away with the knee-roll of his pad that raises shouts of “Catch!” No bat there. Plenty on the next ball though, as Pujara skips down and whips through midwicket for four. Lovely shot, up on one foot as he struck it, balletic and elegant. What a player he is. It raises the team 200 and the 100 partnership, batting on day five to stay in a Test match.
67th over: India 197-3 (Pujara 33, Pant 72) Pujara has kept the strike to face Cummins, who bowls over the wicket to the right-hander, back of a length, in at the gloves. One bouncer in the over. Pujara doesn’t mind any of it. He is the headland, bowlers are the sea.
66th over: India 197-3 (Pujara 33, Pant 72) Ha. A cheer of celebration from Paine as he sees Pujara edge the ball, then turns back to see it in Steve Smith’s hands at slip. Only problem was that it bounced first. Lyon bowling around the wicket to Pujara and he still looks dangerous, four balls that have the batsman discomfited, having to defuse them more than play them. Sixth ball Pujara advances and whips a run square.
65th over: India 196-3 (Pujara 32, Pant 72) Back to the big guns. Paine turns to Cummins. Has him come around the wicket at Pant, the same approach that Cummins took when he smashed the batsman on the arm in the first innings. Cummins bluffs though, doesn’t bowl short but bowls a length for the first few balls. Fifth ball is too full, and Pant cover-drives him for four!
Tom Bowtell writes in. “I’m getting distinct Pant-focused flashbacks to this final day. Am hereby predicting an identical final result here, with Lyon’s 400th wicket taking the place of Anderson’s 564th as the denouement.”
64th over: India 192-3 (Pujara 32, Pant 68) Lyon to Pujara, who is looking to score once or twice but can’t beat the field with his nudges. Fifth ball there’s a proper appeal, Lyon gives it the genuflecting spirit fingers and all the sauce. Umpire Reiffel says nahhhh. Smashed Pujara on the pad but it was high and spinning down leg side. Massive turn for Lyon though. Maiden over.
63rd over: India 192-3 (Pujara 32, Pant 68) Another boundary for Pant! He loves to start an over this way. Starc makes it easy by bowling very full outside his off stump, allowing Pant to drive hard through it to the cover boundary. It’s a no-ball too! Then he takes a single from the next. You would think the Australians want Pant on strike because he’s the one they’d have more chance to get out, but effectively he’s managed to get off strike first ball of the over and cost them five runs in the process.
Pujara though gets moving a little, gliding a couple of runs behind point, then glancing a straight one for a single. Pant back on strike. Smacks a wider ball to point but Pucovski puts in another good diving stop to make it a dot ball. Not the final ball though, too short and Pant pulls it for four! No protection out at midwicket. This is a remarkable innings. The over costs 13 and India need 215.
62nd over: India 179-3 (Pujara 29, Pant 59) Pant pushes an early run to point from Lyon. Australia having to go some Plans B & C now. Two short legs in for Pujara against Lyon, who changes to over the wicket for one ball, then changes back and goes around. Wants to draw that edge into pad. But Pujara does not misread the line of the ball once in this over. What a player Pujara is. He’s faced 117 balls now. They’re down to 70 overs left, and 222 runs behind, the Richie Benaud.
61st over: India 178-3 (Pujara 29, Pant 58) Starc to Pant, short, fended away without alarm for a single to the leg side. Starc comes around the wicket to Pujara, left-hander to right-armer, an approach that Starc enjoys when he gets the ball to reverse. We’ve seen him absolutely demolish a couple of line-ups doing this, in Galle against Sri Lanka and in Durban against South Africa and in Melbourne against Pakistan, most notably. Can reverse it away from the edge to get nicks, or inwards to hit stumps. It’s not really swerving for him today though. Pujara picks up a couple of runs clipped behind square leg, his spot, no matter how well it’s guarded.
60th over: India 175-3 (Pujara 27, Pant 57) Lyon is going to come back and try again. Bowling to Pant. And he’s dropped first ball! For once Pant doesn’t attack, he defends from the crease and Lyon rags it from the rough, takes a fine edge up high on the outside edge, and I think that went low straight into Paine’s leg rather than glove. Lyon has had Pant nicking twice today. After a few balls Pant whacks one through point for a run, then Pujara draws the most unrealistic appeal of the day after a ball comes off the flap of his front pad, outside leg stump, about a foot from his bat, but Lyon and Wade want to ask if there was a catch.