India in control but Aussies hang on

MELBOURNE • A clinical India had Australia on the ropes and staring at defeat in the third cricket Test yesterday, after skittling them for 151 before a fine spell by Pat Cummins sparked the game back into life.

At stumps, the visitors had a sizeable 346 cushion with five wickets left and two days to play as they inch closer to a first series win Down Under. It is tied at 1-1 before the Sydney finale next week.

Once again, the hosts' batting frailties were exposed on a stifling day as they struggled with a deteriorating Melbourne pitch, with 15 wickets falling yesterday and some top bowling from pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah.

He had a career-best 6-33 for his third five-wicket haul after South Africa and England.

With a 292-run first-innings advantage, India skipper Virat Kohli could have enforced the follow-on, but chose to turn the screw and add to the imposing total.

But his batsmen also found it tough going, slumping to 54 for five, with first-innings century-maker Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli himself out for ducks.

"We wanted to play positive cricket, yes, we lost a few more wickets than we wanted, but we'll try to add as many runs as we can, then we can come back and try to get them out," said Bumrah in reference to Kohli's decision.

Cummins was Australia's best bowler in India's first innings of 443-7 declared and was the chief destroyer yesterday, claiming 4-3 off his first four overs. His scalps included opener Hanuma Vihari (13) and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane (1), while Josh Hazlewood accounted for Rohit Sharma (5).

Cummins defended what was arguably one of Australia's worst batting displays in recent times, saying: "It's still a young batting group. They are trying their best and today, it just didn't come off."

None of Australia's batsmen could muster more than 22, again demonstrating how much they miss former captain Steve Smith and former vice-captain David Warner, whose bans for ball-tampering run out in late March.

But Cummins refused to rule out a fairy tale, saying: "The wicket's still pretty good. We've seen a lot of matches here go right to the end of fifth days. You never know."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

AUSTRALIA V INDIA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 29, 2018, with the headline 'India in control but Aussies hang on'. Print Edition | Subscribe