What’s the story?
At the end of the decisive third day’s play at the picturesque HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala, the mood in the Australian camp seems to be one of doom and gloom. If batting coach Graeme Hick’s words are to be believed, the players have almost given up on themselves and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy is well on its way to the Indian team.
When asked if the visitors’ chances remain bleak, Hick admitted, “That’s stating the obvious. You can hear a pin drop in the dressing room. (It’s been a) very disappointing day, there’s always a chance until the final ball is bowled but it’s a hard day today. The boys are pretty down and they’ll give it a good crack in the morning, but I’d say it’s a tough ask.”
“I wouldn’t be critical of the guys who got out cheaply when they haven’t got ‘in’. If we look back over this game and one or two others over the series, we’ve missed our opportunities and left some runs out there in the first innings. While today was very disappointing, it’s not the only reason we find ourselves in this position”, he added in the end-of-day press conference.
When the day began, the contest was on a knife-edge with India trailing behind by 52 runs. However, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja combined with wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha to eke out a handy lead of 32 runs on a pitch providing assistance for both seamers and spinners alike.
The heart of the matter
Australia began their second innings on a sour note as opener David Warner’s woeful tour came to a lacklustre end. Surprisingly coming out all guns blazing, skipper Steven Smith’s ultra-aggressive approach became his own undoing. Even before the deficit could be wiped out, Matt Renshaw returned to the dressing room as well.
Once the seamers had created early inroads, the spinners got into the act and ripped through the middle-order. The Aussies were eventually bowled out for 137 from just 53.5 overs. Requiring just 106 runs to take home the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the Indian openers ended the third day at 19 without loss.
With only 87 more runs left and a couple of days remaining, the hosts appear to be well on top.
Parallels from history
The lowest fourth-innings target that India have failed to chase in their entire Test history is 120 (against West Indies in Barbados 1997). On Indian soil, the lowest total successfully defended by any team against the hosts is 221 (by Pakistan in the 1987 Bangalore Test).
For Australia, it’s 231 (in the 1956 Calcutta Test). Needless to say, their chances in Dharamsala look really grim.
While being pragmatic in his assessment, Hick could have exuded a little bit of positivity in the press conference and tried to lift his team’s spirits. Even if the odds are strictly against them, Australia certainly have to come hard at the Indians on the fourth day morning.
If they make the hosts earn every run, at least they can bring a particularly hard-fought series to a fitting finish.