Indore: Australia knocked off the 76-run target just after the first hour of the third day of the third Test, inflicting upon India only their third defeat at home over the last 10 years.
Australia’s nine-wicket win not just kept their hopes of drawing the four-match series alive but also guaranteed them a place in the ICC World Test Championship final at the Oval, London in June.
India though still have to wait but are favourites to face Australia in the apex battle. A win in Ahmedabad will seal the spot for them. But a draw or a loss would mean that they will have to wait for Sri Lanka’s two Tests in New Zealand. But only if their sub-continental neighbours win both the Tests, they’ll be out.
The third day began well for India and with an early wicket – of Usman Khawaja caught behind of R Ashwin — India had their tails up. Khawaja was dismissed on the second ball.
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Indian spinners Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowled well as the nervy Australian batsmen survived tense moments. A catch in the leg-slip by Virat Kohli of No. 3 Marnus Labuschagne in the seventh over excited the Indians and they went for review only to fail.
But the Aussies opened up after the 10th over. Up until then, the sizeable crowd backed India to the hilt even though there wasn’t much of chance for India.
In the 11th over bowled by Ashwin, Head smashed over mid-wicket for four and then hit a six over long on. In between these two shots, they earned a well-run double.
In the next over bowled by Jadeja, he hit one down the ground for a four. A single and an appeal later, Labuschagne swept one through mid-wicket for four. The 11 balls in overs 11 and 12 yielded 22 runs and that was it as any opportunity for India to get a few wickets and gain some pride in loss ended after the onslaught in these two overs.
“I had spoken to the batsmen and suggested that they start the day like it was Day One and don’t think about the target. If we make it to lunch, then we will surely reach the 76-run target,” said Australia captain Smith after the end of the day’s play.
India still lead the series 2-1 ahead of the fourth Test in Ahmedabad that begins on March 9.