India is just two wickets away from victory with one day’s play remaining in the third cricket test against Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Chasing an unlikely victory target of 399, Australia will resume on Sunday’s fifth day at 258-8.
No.8 batsman Pat Cummins, who has also taken nine wickets in the match, played some glorious cover drives in his career-best 61 not out off 103 balls including five fours and one six.
The tailender has top-scored in Australia’s second innings, defending and attacking strongly against the second new ball just before stumps on Saturday with Nathan Lyon (six not out).
“We’re not going to give this test match up lightly so we’re going to show a lot of fight,” said Lyon about Australia’s mindset going into the final day.
Australia reached 2-44 at lunch on Saturday after openers Marcus Harris (13) and Aaron Finch (three) again failed to set a strong platform for the home team’s innings.
India took three vital wickets in the post-lunch session as Australia stumbled to tea at 138-5.
Usman Khawaja (33) and Shaun Marsh (44) looked composed before they were dismissed leg-before wicket to the bowling of Mohammed Shami (2-71) and Bumrah (2-53) respectively.
Mitch Marsh (10) holed out to cover in lame fashion from the bowling of Jadeja to reduce Australia to 135-5.
Travis Head (34) played a delivery from Ishant Sharma onto his stumps after tea at 157-6 and 19 runs later, Australia suffered a huge setback when captain Tim Paine (26) was caught behind off Jadeja’s bowling.
Cummins and Mitchell Starc (18) added a defiant stand of 39 before Starc was bowled by Shami. But India’s bowlers could not get the final two wickets required, as Cummins and Lyon showed the discipline sometimes lacking in the top order.
India bowling coach Bharat Arun was reluctant to give an opinion when asked if Australia’s top-order batsmen had shown enough patience.
“We really focus on what we can do. I thought the Indian bowlers did an exceptional job,” Arun said. “They executed the plans perfectly so I have no complaints.”
Arun praised the maturity of Jadeja and said with Shami, Bumrah and Ishant Sharma, India for the first time had a “great bunch of (fast) bowlers”.
“They’ve proved over the last one year that they can be fast, and they can be mean, and they can be consistent,” Arun said.
Lyon said Australia’s struggling top six faced a tough task in this series.
“It’s one of the best Indian bowling attacks I’ve ever seen,” Lyon said. “I know all our batters are disappointed.”
One shining light for Australia in this match has been the all-round contributions of seamer Cummins, who claimed a career-best 6-27 in India’s second innings.
It was the third time in 17 tests that 25-year-old Cummins had claimed a five-wicket haul, in an injury-interrupted career which started in 2011 at the age of 18.
Lyon described Cummins, who has recorded career-best performances with bat and ball in the Melbourne test, as one of the best all-rounders in the game.
“He’s going be one very special cricketer,” Lyon said.
Resuming on Saturday on 54-5, India declared on 106-8 after a facing a further 10.3 overs, setting Australia 399 runs to win.
Australia was dismissed for 151 on Friday in reply to India’s 443-7 declared.
Fast bowler Bumrah, in his first year in test cricket, took a career-best 6-33 as India claimed a 292-run lead on the first innings.
Top-ranked India has never won a test series in Australia.