Australia wants a draw against India in SCG Test to build momentum for Ashes defence

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January 06, 2019 19:53:05

A committed Australian display on the final day of the fourth Test against India could act as a springboard for a successful Ashes defence in England later this year, although Peter Handscomb acknowledges the home side will need a “huge” effort to draw and avoid defeat.

Key points:

  • Peter Handscomb says Australia can grow in confidence by posting a draw
  • Australia trails India by 316 runs heading into the final day
  • It is the first time Australia has been forced to follow-on in a home Test in 31 years

Australia trails India by 316 runs ahead of tomorrow’s fifth and final day after being forced to follow-on at the SCG, the first time it has happened to the hosts on home soil since 1988.

Bad light and rain meant Australia made it to an early stumps on 0-6, with play on day four restricted to just 25.2 overs.

India will have 98 overs to bowl out Australia on day five as it chases a 3-1 series victory, but Handscomb is holding out hope of a draw.

He believes staving off a defeat will go a long way to establishing confidence in Australia’s Test squad before it tackles England in the five-Test Ashes series beginning in August.

“It’s huge for us to push for the draw,” said Handscomb, who was out for 37 on day four.

“We’ve obviously got a really, really good chance to shift some momentum back into our camp, not just for the one-dayers coming up but also there’s the World Cup and the Ashes.

“So, this movement can really start tomorrow and we know that.

“We know that as a batting group we can really take some confidence out of tomorrow if we can last this day and show the country and show the world we’re not far off [from] clicking and being a really, really good team.”

Batting an entire day with 10 wickets in hand does not sound the most difficult of tasks, albeit on a day-five pitch, but Australia’s underperforming top and middle order has hardly instilled confidence in its supporters.

No Australian batsman has scored a century in the four-Test series, although Handscomb is confident that can change on day five.

“It will be really nice,” Handscomb said.

“We haven’t scored a hundred this series, which is obviously a big thing.

“But if someone can come out tomorrow and score 100 that would be great, or even face 200 or 300 balls in a Test-match saving knock, [that] can gives us a lot of confidence going forward.”

India follow-on ‘hurts’ Australia

The chances of Australia avoiding the follow-on always seemed slim after it started day four on 6-236, in response to India’s first-innings total of 7-622 (declared).

India ripped through much of the Australian tail when play began almost four hours after the scheduled start because of inclement weather, before Mitchell Starc (29 not out) and Josh Hazlewood (21) added 42 runs for the final wicket.

Australia was eventually dismissed for 300 after just 80 minutes at the crease and Indian captain Virat Kholi had no hesitation in enforcing the follow-on.

Handscomb said the Australians were embarrassed, considering it was their first follow-on in 150 Tests.

“Obviously it hurts, you never want to follow-on in any Test match for obvious reasons,” he said.

“We’ll be [looking to] draw this game tomorrow and we’ll go over the game then, and assess where we can improve and get better as a team.”

Usman Khawaja (4 not out) and Marcus Harris (2) will resume Australia’s innings on day five, with play scheduled to start 30 minutes early in light of the delays the past two days.

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