India (342/5, Kohli 140, Rahul 110) trail Australia (572/7 dec) by 230 runs. India found themselves in a stable position in the Sydney Test on Day 3, after centuries from Virat Kohli and K.L Rahul took the visitors to 342/5 at the close of play, with a deficit of 230 runs still left to be covered.
Rohit, Rahul start cautiously in the morning
Even though the tons from Rahul and Kohli might hint at the batting friendly nature of the Sydney track, the situation was completely different at the start of the day when Rohit Sharma and K.L. Rahul took to the crease. Both were tentative in the beginning and were content with defending the majority of the balls bowled, as a result of which the scoring rate dropped to an abysmal level of 1.7 in the first session. Rohit Sharma reached a well deserved half century but could carry it no further than 53. Rahul, at the other end, batted like an unmovable rock and bravely kept the Australian attack at bay with a technically sound defence.
Indians gain the momentum in the 2nd session
Slipshod fielding by the Australians and some top class batting by Kohli and Rahul turned the post lunch session into one of complete dominance by the India. The watershed moment in the session arrived when K.L.Rahul, who had been severely criticized for his debut performance in Melbourne, reached his maiden Test century only in his second game in the white jersey. Not only has the century now put Rahul in the frame for a permanent spot as a Test opener, and clearly closing the doors for the struggling Shikhar Dhawan. Virat Kohli batted with his usual flair, making the hosts pay dearly for their ineffective bowling on a not-so-helpful track in Sydney. By tea, the Indians had cantered to 234/2, looking set for a big 1st innings score.
Watson’s double strike dents India
Australia came back strongly in the final session, with the wickets of Rahul, Rahane and Suresh Raina. Rahul’s wicket came after he had been instrumental in stitching a partnership of 141, with Virat Kohli, to keep India on track. It was Rahane and Raina’s dismissals on successive deliveries to the less fancied Shane Watson that shifted the pressure back on to India, and yet again reminding us of the fragility of the middle order which has failed to use the good platform provided by other, on multiple occasions in the past. At the other end, Virat Kohli kept going – apparently not affected in the least by the events transpiring around him, and soon brought up his 4th century of the series in characteristic style. Wriddhiman Saha, with the whole world focusing on his ability to fill the big shoes of MS Dhoni, played with composure in the last few overs of the day, and kept India in the hunt for a decent score!
Key to success – Kohli!
Even though the Indian captain has bagged 4 superlative centuries in the Test series so far, he has not been able to convert any of those into a big double hundred. India would be waiting with bated breath for Kohli to make it big tomorrow, for it will be on Kohli’s shoulders to somehow steer the Indian tail ahead. Wriddhiman Saha has displayed some good poise in his innings so far, and trying to make amends for the horrible shot that he had played in the 2nd innings of the 1st Test match at Adelaide – the Bengal boy needs to consolidate on the good start and stay with Kohli for as long as possible.
Even though a draw looks the strongest possibility at this stage, one never knows what can happen if India collapse early or take an unexpected lead tomorrow! So, get set for India v Australia Day 4, Sydney!