India vs Australia, 3rd Test: Hosts must play out morning session to eat into visitors' lead on Day 3
The morning session becomes crucial, and if India can play out till lunch without losing more than one wicket, they will be right back in this game.
Australia looked good to pile big runs on the board when they ended Day 1 of the third Test in Ranchi with a score of 299/4. With Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell going strong, it looked like Australia would go past the 500-run mark and bat India out of the Test match. However, thanks to Ravindra Jadeja's brilliance, India were able to restrict Australia to 451 before tea on Day 2.
In response, India made a great start to their innings at reached 120/1 at stumps. That left the host 331 runs behind the visitors' total. The wicket on Day 3 would still be good for batting at least until the last hour of play when the pitch might start to take turn.
However, the first session on both days has yielded six out of the eleven wickets that have fallen in this Test match. On Day 1 it was the freshness of the pitch that helped the Indian bowlers, while on Day 2 it was Jadeja's exceptional bowling which extracted the most from the pitch. The Australian pacers who are yet to utilise the morning conditions might pose a threat to the Indian batting line-up. Pat Cummins bowled some stunning deliveries to announce himself and the one that got rid of KL Rahul was top class.
So, if Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara can go through the first session unscathed, and take the Indian total past 200, the visitors will start feeling the heat. The post-lunch and post-tea sessions have been the best to bat on as seen in this Test match before, and hence the hosts could get very close to the Australian total if they bat out the entire day. Considering how difficult it is to deal with the Indian spinners in the second innings, the visitors would feel they would require a lead of at least hundred runs to set India a formidable target in the last innings.
There are still uncertainties about the position at which Virat Kohli bats at if he comes out in the first innings. Umesh Yadav has suggested the Indian captain has already taken to the nets and will play a big part in this Test match. But it will be interesting to see whether Kohli takes to the field in fully fit condition. In that case, the onus is on the rest of the Indian batting line-up to make runs and put as less pressure as possible on Kohli. This is where the morning session becomes crucial, and if the home side can play out till lunch without losing more than one wicket, they will be right back in this game.
Day 3 might not decisive, but would be pivotal in deciding the result of this game. Hence, with India needing to win the series to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, they would need to win Day 3. Apart from the second innings in Bengaluru, the Indian batting line-up hasn't really delivered and with the pitch at Ranchi being much less hostile for the batsmen, time may be right to put that record straight on Day 3.
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