India had shown signs at the end of Day 2 that they have the potential to wipe off Australia's huge first innings total of 451. By the end of the third day, the hosts were close to achieving that objective, thanks to Chetshwar Pujara's brilliant century. However, it wasn't all India on Day 3 in Ranchi, as some fiery bowling from Pat Cummins ensured the game remained in the balance. He picked up four wickets to have India 360/6 at stumps, still 91 runs behind the visitors' total.
So, despite the fact that India did very well to grind their way back into the match, they still have a lot of work to do to gain the upper hand. In-form Pujara looks indomitable at the crease but has seen players depart at the other end, and the hosts are yet to have a big partnership since Murali Vijay was dismissed for 82 after lunch on Day 3.
With Cummins going great guns, it will be tough for India's tail to survive on a pitch that is expected to become difficult to bat on with every passing delivery on Day 4. So, the responsibility will be on Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja, who are slated to come in next, to lend support to Pujara as the hosts try and take the lead on Day 4.
Virat Kohli's men did not manage to get first innings lead in Bengaluru, and in fact trailed by 87 runs, but still ended up winning the game by 75 runs. However, in Ranchi, things may not pan out in similar fashion for the home side who will be batting last in this 3rd Test. Now, if Australia manage to skittle hosts early on Day 4, and take a similar lead as they did in Bengaluru, then they will be in the driver's seat and can push hard for a win on the final day.
So, it is crucial for India to surpass the Australian total and then put the visitors under pressure, on a wicket that could start to crumble in no time. Indian spinners are a different kettle of fish when the wicket offers turn and even a 50-run lead for India could prove to be decisive.
Even if a draw looks the likelier outcome at the moment, India have shown in the past that they can eke out a result on the final two days of the match. Against England, India won two Tests having conceded over 400 runs in the first innings. On both occasions, their lower order made useful contributions, which ended up proving to be decisive.
The hosts can pat themselves on the back for pulling themselves back in contention in this game but must be wary that they don't let all the good work go for a toss in the opening session on Day 4. To be precise, their job is still half done, and giving an aggressive side like Australia sniff could prove to be fatal.
Once again Pujara holds the key for India on Day 4 and if he is well-supported by Saha and Jadeja, he can help hosts have a shot at an improbable win in Ranchi on the last day.
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Updated Date: Mar 18, 2017 21:41:21 IST