India vs Australia, 2nd Test: Steve Smith and Co must bundle out hosts early on Day 4

Finally Virat Kohli's men have stood up and are showing more than reasonable signs of the team that had been such a dominant force in Test cricket in the past one-and-a-half years. After an inspired bowling performance on day two that saw them stifle the Australians, the hosts' batsmen stepped up to the plate on day three, and what looked like another hopeless situation on day one is starting to look more and more in India's favour.

India ended the day on 213/4 at stumps on day three, leading by a very handy 126 runs. Captain Kohli, whose failure with the bat had become as rare as the proverbial blue moon in recent times, could not overcome his tribulations in the ongoing series yet. But what stood out in the Indian innings was the resolve shown by the batsmen in spite of their talisman's failure.

Australia need to wrap Indian innings early to get into winning position in Bengaluru Test. AP

Australia need to wrap Indian innings early to get into winning position in Bengaluru Test. AP

Cheteshwar Pujara (batting on 79) played to potential, and so did Ajinkya Rahane (batting on 40), and before them, KL Rahul struck his third fifty in four innings in this series. India scored 38 runs in 10 overs in the morning session after the Indian bowlers led by Ravindra Jadeja took the remaining four Australian wickets, restricting their lead to under 100. The post-lunch session saw the Indians adding another 84 runs in 29 overs, and in the last session, they added 91 runs in 33 overs, without losing a wicket. The period of play between tea and stumps on day three was the first time in the ongoing series that no wickets fell in a session, and that bears testimony to the hold that India have started to exert on the game.

However, while there is no gainsaying that India have clawed their way back into the match, the visitors are still not decisively out of the contest. The game is nicely poised at the end of day three. On the pitch that the Bengaluru Test is being played on it is clear that barring interference from the elements, a result is inevitable. The team wresting the initiative on day four, therefore, would have gone a long way towards wrapping the match up.

Australia would have wanted the overnight batsmen Matthew Wade and Mitchell Starc to take their lead well past 100, which would have put them in pole position, but the Indians had other ideas. Now the task in front of the visitors is to restrict India's lead to a manageable one, which would allow them to have a dash at the target in the fourth innings. Breaking the Pujara-Rahane partnership would be the key for the visitors. Both batsmen are capable of a big score and before you know it, Australia could be staring at a deficit of in excess of 200, which would seriously jeopardise their chances in the match.

This is where the Australian spin duo of Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe would have to come in and ensure that the Indian innings is wrapped up as early as possible - may be after tea on day four - which would give them enough time to go after a target. In no case would Australia want to chase more than 250 in the fourth innings on a deteriorating pitch. There are lots of cracks on the wicket which will keep on widening as the match progresses. Some deiveries are kicking up sharply after pitching, while some are keeping low, and there is also the usual rough created by the bowlers' foot marks and the Australian spinners must try to exploit the fourth-day pitch on Tuesday. The pacers Starc and Josh Hazlewood can also try and use the reverse swing to their advantage.

Australia must be mindful of the fact that there is still a good deal of batting to come for India after Pujara and Rahane, with Karun Nair, Ravichandran Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha waiting in the dressing room. The Australian spinners have bowled a good line and length in the series so far and got the optimal turn to create chances and their fielding, as exemplified by Peter Handscomb in the Pune Test and Steve by Smith in Bengaluru, has been top notch.

Australia, therefore, should look to bowl out India under 300 on day four and then bat out the remainder of the day, taking themselves as close as possible to the target. A lot depends upon the Australians bowlers on Tuesday. Will they deliver, or the Indian batsmen emerge on top. India have the edge, but there is still a lot to play for in this Test.

Updated Date: Mar 06, 2017 23:37 PM

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