Pat Cummins landed a crucial blow just before stumps as Australia homed in on a crucial Test win against India at the SCG.
With India flying, Cummins had danger man Rohit Sharma caught on the fine leg boundary for 52, leaving the tourists 98-2 chasing a ground record 407 to win.
Sharma had led India’s late resurgence on day four before falling to Australia’s form bowler, regularly driving through the covers and pulling Cameron Green for a booming six. But Cummins has time and time again reaffirmed his status as the world’s best bowler this summer, with his 4-29 in the first innings setting up Australia’s position.
On a day overshadowed by a crowd incident that stopped play for eight minutes, Shubman Gill also went in the final hour for 36. Tasked with getting through a tough final session and with a draw their likely best hope, the pair exploded out of the blocks before Josh Hazlewood had Gill caught behind.
It left Cheteshwar Pujara (nine) and Ajinkya Rahane (four) together at the close, with the pair shaping as India’s last real hope on day five. No team has successfully chased down more than 288 in a Test at the SCG, while the highest anywhere in Australia stands at 414.
“It was a bit of a relief for us to see Rohit Sharma out there at the end,” Australia’s coach Justin Langer said. “That’s a huge wicket for us because we know he’s a world-class player. We know he’s one of the all-time great one-day players so if he was out there he’s going to keep scoring quickly.”
It came after an electric second session in which Green threatened to score his first Test century but eventually fell in the pursuit of quick runs before Australia declared at 6-312. Green’s 84 included three sixes over long on off quick Mohammed Siraj after passing 50, and another he pulled powerfully from Jasprit Bumrah.
However he fell right on tea trying to heave Bumrah into the crowd again, looking to add to the 25 runs he’d scored from his last nine balls. Steve Smith’s brilliance had earlier again rammed home the hosts’ advantage, denied back-to-back centuries when he fell lbw to Ravichandran Ashwin on 81.
India’s final-day predicament has also not been helped by Rishabh Pant still nursing a heavily strapped arm. He will only bat if required, while Ravindra Jadeja’s status is even more dire with a dislocated thumb and unlikely to feature again this tour.