London, June 10
A focused Virat Kohli stood between Australia and World Test Championship mace as India require another 280 runs to create history on what promises to be an intriguing final day of the summit clash.
Kohli was batting on 44 off 60 balls and had Ajinkya Rahane (20 batting) for company during a stand of 71 for the fourth wicket as India ended the fourth day on 164 for 3 in pursuit of world record chase of 444.
Having been set a mammoth target, India lost Shubman Gill (18 off 19) to a contentious catch before skipper Rohit Sharma (43 off 60) and Cheteshwar Pujara (27 off 47) brought about their own downfall to make it 93 for three in 31st over.
Australia had declared their second innings at 270 for 8 midway into the afternoon session after an unbeaten 66 from Alex Carey.
Though the highest chase at The Oval is 263, Indian fans will not lose hope going into day five with Kohli and Rahane hardly facing any trouble with batting not looking so difficult on the penultimate day.
The pitch continues to have variable bounce but played better than the first three days.
Kohli looked in sublime touch and used his strong wrists to play the flick between mid-wicket and mid-on off the Australian pacers. He also whipped Nathan Lyon (1/32) for a crisp on drive before leaning into a straight drive off Mitchell Starc towards the end of day’s play.
The Indian openers, Rohit and Gill, made a brisk start and were not afraid to go for their strokes against the formidable duo of Pat Cummins and Scott Boland.
However, at the stroke of tea, Scott Boland got one to bounce little extra from length and it flew from ball the shoulder of Gill’s bat only to be lapped up by a diving Cameron Green at gully.
It was the second time in the game that Green took a screamer though replay suggested it was a close call with the ball very close to the ground.
Rohit got most of his runs playing the pull-shot. The partisan Indian crowd really got going when he pulled Starc’s second ball of his opening for a six over fine-leg.
Lyon was brought into the attack in the 20th over break the stand between Rohit and Pujara and he did exactly that.
Bowling around the wicket, Lyon bowled a full one around Rohits’s pads and the India skipper went for the sweep shot only to miss it. Rohit reviewed the leg before call unsuccessfully.
Next to depart was Pujara, who played an uncharacteristic shot – a non-existent ramp shot off Cummins, to get caught behind. Pujara too had played some confident strokes in his 47-ball effort.
Rahane, who did not take the field in Australia’s second innings to protect his bruised finger, looked comfortable in the middle.
In the first session, India picked up a couple of wickets but Australia chugged away to take extend their overall lead to 374 runs after reaching 201 for 6 at lunch.
Australia had to battle hard to get 78 runs in 26 overs from the morning session. On the hottest morning of the game, the pitch continued to play plenty of tricks with both seamers and spinners being in business.
Australia, who resumed the day at 123 for four, lost Marnus Labuschagne (41 off 126) in the third over of the day. The Aussie batter was not able to add to his overnight score as he edged a beauty from Umesh Yadav (2/32 in 12 overs) that pitched around off-stump and nipped away.
Considering the ball was 44 overs old, Umesh and Shami started the proceedings for India looking for reverse swing in dry and hot conditions.
The ball has been taking off or skidding through from a particular spot on length from the pavilion end and that kept the batters guessing on Saturday.
Mohammed Siraj, who has troubled the Aussie batters the most in the game, got one to kick off the from the spot and hit Green’s right shoulder.
Ravindra Jadeja (3/45 in 18 overs) was brought into the attack after eight overs and his tactics were pretty clear: get the ball to turn sharply from outside the leg stump.
The ploy worked as Green, offered a big stride in order to play a forward defensive stroke but the ball bounced a tad more and hit the glove before bouncing on to hit the stumps.
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