India must survive four sessions or pull off the greatest chase in the SCG’s history after Australia set them a target of 407 to win the third Test.
Eyeing a 2-1 lead with one match to play, Australia declared at 6-312 just before tea on day four after Cameron Green scored his maiden Test half-century.
Green’s 84 included three massive sixes over long on off quick Mohammed Siraj after passing 50.
However his shot at a maiden Test century disappeared in the pursuit of quick runs, caught behind trying to heave Jasprit Bumrah after scoring 25 runs from his last nine balls.
That prompted the tea break, and Tim Paine’s declaration, after the game had been stopped for eight minutes due to an incident in the crowd.
The daunting chase now facing India comes amid accusations the visitors were racially abused by spectators SCG, which Indian media said has prompted an official protest.
In a dramatic end to day three, India captain Ajinkya Rahane and other senior players spoke to the umpires at the end of the third day’s play as they walked from the field. Indian quicks Siraj and Bumrah are believed to be the two players caught up in the incident.
India’s coach Ravi Shastri, captain Rahane and vice-captain Rohit Sharma then remained out the front of their dressing room for around 20 minutes while speaking with several ground and ICC officials, including match referee David Boon, before Siraj and Bumrah also came out and spoke to security staff.
Earlier, it had been Steve Smith’s brilliance that dominated the day.
Denied back-to-back centuries, he fell lbw to Ravichandran Ashwin on 81.
The former captain was given not out on the field, and looked surprised when one that turned back sharply was shown to be taking his leg stump.
— BCCI (@BCCI) January 10, 2021
After a poor start to the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, Smith was starting to take flight after lunch following his first innings ton. He still averages 44.4 for the series.
Smith drove beautifully, while the best shot of the morning came when he rocked back and punched Navdeep Saini through the covers.
But his dismissal did little to slow Australia’s charge.
Paine scored an unbeaten 39 off 52, making India pay for dropping him on seven when he hit four boundaries in five balls shortly after.
The previous highest successful chase at the SCG is Australia’s 2-288 against South Africa in 2005.
If India were to pull it off, it would be the second largest at any ground in Australia behind South Africa’s 4-414 at the WACA in 2008-09.
The fight to even draw the game has also taken a hit, with Pat Cummins’ 4-29 on Saturday also leaving Rishabh Pant with a heavily strapped arm.
But it could have been an entirely different story for India on Sunday.
Hanuma Virahi dropped Marnus Labuschagne on the second ball of the day on 47, with what was an absolute sitter.
By the time Labuschagne went for 73 when he gloved one from Saini down the legside, Australia’s lead was 232 after a 103-run stand with Smith.
Matthew Wade was out cheaply again, for just four, although this time from a good ball when Saini angled one in at him and caught his edge.