|Third Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (day four)|
|Australia 338 & 312-6: Green 84, Smith 81, Labuschagne 73|
|India 244 & 98-2: Rohit 52|
|India require 309 more runs to win|
India face a daunting task to avoid defeat in the third Test against Australia after closing day four on 98-2, requiring a further 309 runs to win.
The hosts resumed on 103-2 before declaring on 312-6, setting India an unlikely 407 for victory in Sydney.
All-rounder Cameron Green hit an entertaining 84, while Steve Smith made 81 and Marnus Labuschagne scored 73.
India’s chase started well, before Shubman Gill fell for 31 and Rohit Sharma was caught in the deep for 52.
Cheteshwar Pujara and captain Ajinkya Rahane remain unbeaten on nine and four respectively, but will need to form a substantial partnership to help their side either bat out the final day for a draw or pull off a remarkable victory.
The highest successful fourth-innings chase at the Sydney Cricket Ground is 288, which Australia made against South Africa in 2006.
The four-match series is currently level at 1-1, with the final Test in Brisbane starting on 15 January.
Day four was marred by an incident in which play was halted for 10 minutes shortly before tea after India fast bowler Mohammed Siraj alerted the umpires to alleged abuse from a section of the Sydney Cricket Ground crowd.
Six people were subsequently ejected by police.
The International Cricket Council are investigating allegations of racist abuse against India players by crowd members on day three, while Cricket Australia have condemned all discriminatory behaviour “in the strongest possible terms”.
Rohit wicket puts Australia firmly on top
Set what would be the third highest fourth-innings total to win a Test, India openers Gill and Rohit endured a formidable opening spell from fast bowlers Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood.
They battled admirably to put on an opening stand of 71 before Gill nicked Hazlewood behind to keeper Tim Paine, confirmed on review.
The hosts will have had some concern as Rohit, one of the best white-ball batsmen in the world who has also excelled since his reintroduction to the Test side in 2019, started to play with greater fluency in bringing up his half-century.
Yet he fell into the trap late on, pulling a short ball from Cummins straight to deep backward square leg, to ensure Australia ended the day firmly on top.
They still face notable obstacles in Pujara, who is comfortable occupying the crease for long periods to grind down bowlers, and Rahane, who scored a sublime century in his side’s second Test win.
However, Australia will be confident of quickly wrapping up victory should they remove those two early on, given Rishabh Pant will bat with an elbow injury that has prevented him from keeping, Ravindra Jadeja is unlikely to bat after dislocating his thumb and India’s lower order collapsed in the first innings.
Even during their periods of Test dominance over the past 40 years, Australia have lacked a truly influential all-rounder akin to England stars Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff and Ben Stokes.
They are hoping 21-year-old Green, who averages 51.44 with the bat and 23.12 with the ball in first-class cricket, will grow into that sort of talismanic player.
He has been used sparingly as a bowler in this match but his first Test half-century here showed plenty of signs of encouragement as he steadily built his side’s lead before cutting loose in hitting four sixes until he nicked Bumrah behind.
India’s bowlers had started the day well, stifling the runs before Labuschange, who was dropped by Hanuma Vihari off the second ball of the day, was caught behind by replacement keeper Wriddhiman Saha.
Matthew Wade also nicked Navdeep Saini to Saha for just four and Smith was denied a second century of the match as he fell lbw to Ravichandran Ashwin – the third time the off-spinner has removed Smith in five innings in this series.
But Green’s onslaught and a useful 39 not out from captain Paine allowed Australia to declare with plenty of time left to bowl India out.
‘Australia are serving for the match’ – reaction
Former Australia bowler Stuart Clark on ABC Grandstand: “Australia are serving for the match now. They will bowl well tomorrow – they bowled well today without much luck until those two late wickets.
“Rohit Sharma was a big wicket, he was batting beautifully.
“There is still hope for India in the batsmen they have at the crease and Vihari and Pant, but if they lose four wickets, we know the last four aren’t great.”
Australia all-rounder Cameron Green: “I needed that – I’ve never experienced the nervous 40s before but I was nervous getting to 50 there.
“The century did pop into my mind but there were only 10 minutes until tea and we were going to declare then so I gave myself the best chance and just nicked one.”