Sport Cricket Weary and worn down, Australia confronts a crushing 598-run deficit

Weary and worn down, Australia confronts a crushing 598-run deficit

Pant India Cricket
Rishabh Pant hits a boundary at the SCG. Photos: Getty
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India 7-622 (dec)      Australia  0-24

Khawaja  5*       Harris  19*

Australia trails India by 598 runs at stumps on day two of the fourth Test at the SCG.

At stumps, Australia was 0-24 in reply to India’s massive first innings effort of 7-622 declared.

Usman Khawaja survived a caught-behind chance early in his innings as Australia went to stumps without losing a wicket.

India’s keeper Rishabh Pant dropped a straightforward chance off the bowling of Mohammed Shami when Khawaja had yet to score.

The agony finally ended for the Australian bowlers late on day two.

With Ravindra Jadeja’s dismissal for 81, Indian captain Virat Kohli called off the artillery barrage of runs after tea, and declared at 7-622, the second-highest innings total recorded at the SCG.

Pant became the latest Indian batsman to make a Test century on this tour, and after tea, he set about enjoying himself, ripping into the despondent Australian bowlers, his innings including 15 boundaries and a six as he retired on 159 off 189 deliveries.

Pant and Jadeja’s 204-run partnership set a new record for the seventh wicket in Test matches at the SCG.

The only good news for Australia in that session was the dismissal of Cheteshwar Pujara.

Yes, he actually does make mistakes.

Pujara (193) was within sight of a third double century against Australia when he didn’t quite get to the pitch of a Lyon delivery and punched the ball back to the bowler to be caught.

It was another brilliant innings from India’s number three who has now amassed a remarkable 890 runs in seven Test innings on this tour.

Shortly after the re-start after lunch, Khawaja missed a sharp chance at first slip off the bowling of Lyon to send Pujara on his way.

Having taken the new ball late on day one, Tim Paine was desperate for his fast bowlers to find a way of breaking this partnership which threatened to put the game out of Australia’s reach.

It took Lyon’s off-spinners to find the breakthrough, snaring Vihari after an attempted sweep shot took the thinnest of edges and was caught by Paine.

Pujara remained at the crease looking in ominous form. And so it proved to be.

He has two double centuries to his name against Australia, both on the sub-continent and just fell short of adding another double ton to his resumé.

“Batting is meditation,” the Indian number three told the media after India’s victory in Melbourne. The Zen master of wicket and willow may be inhabiting his happy place right now, but it has become a particular kind of purgatory for Australia’s bowlers.

Australia’s fast bowlers have come in for stinging criticism from former Australian greats after yesterday’s performance with the ball.

Former captain Ricky Ponting told Channel 7 Cricket: “They have all bowled a little too much the same. Why do we always talk about wanting to play India in Brisbane and Perth when they come to Australia? Because they don’t like the short ball.”

Ponting was joined in his criticism by Shane Warne who pointed out that Australia has had only one LBW decision in its favour this series, a confirmation of their inability to attack the stumps.

It’s unlikely that anything they’ve seen in the first two days in Sydney that would shift their opinion.

A leg-weary and mentally ravaged Australian batting line-up needs to draw on all its reserves on day three to bat their way out of trouble.

The jury is well and truly out on whether they have what it takes to do it

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