Pune: Australians, after some fine bowling performances on day-2 of Pune Test have tightened their grip on the match and have given the target of 441.
The hosts on day-3 are looking solid and trying stretch the lead as much as possible.
Australia’s mission to bat India out of the first Test got off to a strong start on Day 3. Captain Steve Smith led the charge with the 18th century. Contributions from Mitch Marsh, Matthew Wade and Mitchell Starc helped him add precious runs. At lunch on Saturday, the visitors were all out for 285, an overall lead of 440. With more than two days to go, there is ample time to bowl India out.
Starting the day with a deficit of 298, India had to take wickets to raise even a glimmer of hope. They did get two before Smith, but by the time the captain was trapped leg-before by Ravindra Jadeja, Australia’s lead had swollen over 400. On a turning pitch expected to get worse for batting as the match goes on, that’s a hell of a lot. It will take nothing short of miraculous for India to salvage this and when you start banking on miracles, you know you have had it.
Smith’s century was the cornerstone of the Australian second innings. Moving constantly around the crease till before the ball was delivered a day earlier, he was steadier this morning. The shuffling across the stumps was less pronounced and he looked focussed on extending his team’s lead, which would push India to the point of no return. The Indian attack appeared dispirited and with Marsh, Wade and Starc looking for runs, the scorers were kept busy. The extended first session saw 142 runs off 41 overs for the loss of six wickets.
Towards the end of the session, Australia started looking for quick runs, which indicated that they wanted the Indians out soon for a second dig. They left Virat Kohli’s men eight sessions to chase the target. Draw out of the question unless elements intervene, they will have to get the highest fourth-innings winning total on Indian soil to clinch this. It can be said with some certainty that hardly any of the 10,000-odd at MCA Stadium are placing money on that eventuality.