Australia collapses miserably but Pat Cummins’ wicket streak gives hosts hope against India in third Test

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December 28, 2018 18:14:34

Pat Cummins has ripped through India’s top order to give the slightest glimmer of hope for Australia, but India is still well in charge of the third Test after skittling Australia for a meagre 151.

At stumps, India was 5-52, with Mayank Agarwal 28 not out and Rishabh Pant unbeaten on 5. India leads by 344 which already would be the biggest target set in this series so far.

The MCG played host to Australia’s worst collapse of the Test series, heightening India’s favouritism to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

After India batted for the first two days, Australia could not last one, dismissed for a measly 151 in response to India’s first-innings declaration on 7-443.

It included a miserable collapse of 7-62 to go from 3-89 to all out, with captain Tim Paine and opener Marcus Harris top-scoring with just 22 each.

Despite leading by 292 runs, India captain Virat Kohli did not send Australia’s demoralised batsmen back in straight away, opting instead to physically exhaust the bowlers by batting again and ensuring Australia would spend time in the field for the fourth-straight day.

That plan appeared to backfire a fair bit when Cummins claimed all four scalps of India’s top four, including the prized wickets of Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli for ducks, and Ajinkya Rahane for 1. Josh Hazlewood coaxed Rohit Sharma into a wild edge to slip for 5.

But debutant Agarwal — who made 76 in the first innings — and Pant batted out the rest of the day as the potential target for Australia continued to stretch further and further away from a plausible successful chase.

Another familiar batting collapse for Australia

Having made it through an awkward half-hour to end day two, Australia’s opening pair only lasted four and a half more overs on day three, with Aaron Finch caught brilliantly at short mid-wicket by debutant Mayank Agarwal.

Three overs later, Jasprit Bumrah began his decimation of the Aussie batsmen when he aimed a bouncer at Harris and the rookie opener — perhaps eager to avoid being crowned for the second day in a row — tried to hook, only to top-edge a ball straight down Ishant Sharma’s gullet at deep fine leg.

Australia still had some hope with Usman Khawaja (21) and Shaun Marsh (19), the team’s most experienced batsmen, at the crease, but they only added 17 runs in their six overs together before Khawaja prodded a Ravindra Jadeja delivery to Agarwal at short leg.

Hope seemed extinguished when, with the last ball before lunch, Bumrah deceived Marsh with a slow, swinging, looping delivery that found his front pad on the full, ending his resistance on 19.

Travis Head (20) received similar treatment from the white-hot Bumrah just after lunch, with a cracking in-swinger dipping through an enormous gap the left-hander had left between bat and pad, sending bails flying.

Mitch Marsh (9) also played an awkward stroke as he fell, caught at slip to Jadeja. Pat Cummins (17) and Paine showed some of the resistance that has been typical of Australia’s tail of late, but failed to make hugely meaningful totals.

Nathan Lyon and Josh Hazlewood were both dismissed by Bumrah in quick succession without troubling the scorers, completing the latest edition of the sort of collapse that has bedevilled Australia’s batting in recent years.

It meant Bumrah finished with brilliant figures of 6-33, a gem of a performance in an excellent series from the paceman down under.

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