India put themselves in a strong position early on in the day, when Shardul-Natarajan and Washington accounted for the Australian tail, to a total of 369. While they didn’t get off to the best of starts, the duo of Pujara and Rahane made sure that they got to the stumps without much worry.
Cameron Green and Tim Paine make it two-in-a-row
For the most part of this Test series, Australia’s middle-order seemed to falter under the pressure of the Indian bowlers. Time and again, it was a two-man show, evident by Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne’s run tally in the series. However, once the Indians saw the back of the two on Day 1, they had hoped, funnily to restrict the Australian lower-order to a low score at the Gabba. Yet for the second straight time in this series, the lower-order wagged and really put on a show. While the top four had scores of 1, 5, 108 and 36; it was really the lower-order which put the visitors under immense pressure, a known weakness of the Indian bowling unit.
In the first innings, across the last three Tests in the tour, the lower Australian order have scored 117 runs, 65 runs, 26 runs. While India did relatively well across the board in the last innings, their vulnerability from time to time against the lower order has come back to haunt them. In the second innings at SCG, the pair of Green and Paine scored 123 runs in between them. It haunted them in Sydney, it continues to haunt them at the Gabba. In between the two lower-order batsmen, they have 376 runs, a telling factor of the series.
At the Gabba, 154 runs - conceded to the Australian batsmen - from No.6 to No.11, has taken the hosts from a total of 213 to a monumental score of 369, at their own fortress. Despite having one of the best white-ball bowlers in T Natarajan, India failed to capitalise on their bowling performance from the first day of the fourth Test, which could very well be a defining factor in the series decider.
Pat Cummins is relentless and Mitchell Starc erroneous
The theme of the series thus far has been the Australian bowling attack, which has looked good for most parts, barring the Melbourne Test, where they seemingly found no answers to the Indian batsmen. But come to Sydney in the second innings, they were creating numerous chances, being a constant threat at the same time, it showed their true nature. While Pat Cummins continued to breathe fire, as testified by Ravichandran Ashwin post the game, Mitchell Starc was blowing hot and cold, a recurrent aspect of his Test career. Every other series, the left-arm pacer has come under the scanner, not because he doesn’t have the potential but because he isn’t living up to it.
Something that the left-arm pacer has done spectacularly well in the Australian whites, is bowling full-throttles on the stump every single time during his opening spell. But on Saturday, he was far from it, so much so he didn’t even hit the stump or bowled in that channel once during his opening spell. On the other hand, there was Pat Cummins, who was drawing 21% of false shots during the series, the most across the board. It was only fitting that Cummins looked far more threatening and rightly so because he wasn’t tangential. For Australia to shine, they will ask more of Starc’s delivery hitting the stumps otherwise, the series looks far from home for them.
Rohit Sharma needs to realise that he’s now an opener
26, 52, 44 - he certainly has the scores but after a good start, you ought to convert your start into a substantial one, which is one of the basic essentials of succeeding in Test cricket. Especially away from home, in certainly good batting conditions, the Nagpur-born cricketer needs to start living up to his bill as the senior-most cricketer in the Indian outfit, after Virat Kohli’s return to the country. In all these circumstances, Rohit had already gone past the new ball threat, taken the attack to the opposition and at the same time, put them under immense pressure.
If he’s ticked off what is one of the toughest things to do in world cricket, he needs to add two to two and put on a show, that’s how India won the series back in 2018. Cheteshwar Pujara walked in, sucked the life out of the Australian bowlers and walked out to rousing applause. While Rohit might not be as calm and possess a zeal-like Pujara, he has more strokes in his arsenal which would cause the hosts a lot of worries. And, it has caused a few worries thus far in the series, where they have looked lost, seeking answers to the simplest of questions at their own home. But yet time and again, that’s where Rohit gives away his wicket and walks off to make the opponents more confident.
While he might get a positive start, the more he fails to convert these starts, it is only putting the opposition on the top. Rohit needs to start realising that he’s now an opener and doesn’t walk out to bat in the middle-order. A 52 and 44 would suffice there in the middle-order but at the top, it only puts more pressure on the middle-order, out of nowhere.