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Australia blaze through to extend lead to 348

Sydney, Jan 9: A blazing second innings run–rate in the second innings helped Australia extend its lead to 348 and take a commanding position at stumps on the fourth day of the concluding Test against India.

Having bowled out India for 475 for a 97–run lead, Australia scored at a fast clip to post 251 for six in 40 overs at the Sydney Cricket Ground  here on Friday.

The home team’s batting approach was in a stark contrast to their opponents, scoring at 6.27 runs per over in comparison to India’s 2.93.

Resuming at 342/5, India maged to avoid the follow on but lost skipper Virat Kohli early (147), who added only seven runs to his overnight score.

The other overnight unbeaten wicketkeeper–batsman Wriddiman Saha (35) looked fluent at the crease, tackling the Australian pacers well, who enjoyed considerable movement in the morning session. However, Saha fell to a bouncer when he awkwardly gloved a Josh Hazlewood (1/64) delivery to the first slip.

India added 65 in 29 overs in the first session losing two wickets but they came out post the break with an attacking mindset. Handy lower–order batsman Ravichandran Ashwin (50), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (30), Mohammed Shami (16 not out) provided some fireworks at the end of India’s innings to reduce the lead below 100. Ashwin held the innings together scoring his fourth Test half–century. Umesh Yadav (4) was the last wicket to fell, getting caught behind to end India’s innings. It was a collective effort from Australian bowlers who shared the wickets to fall with left–arm pacer Mitchell Starc (3/106) being the most successful.

India started on a positive note with Ashwin getting fair amount of turn from the fourth day pitch. He accounted for the dangerous David Warner (4) in the second over itself.

The visitors had a couple of other chances to make early inroads into the Australian batting order. But they squandered those opportunities with Saha missing a stumping and a run–out chance.

Australia, sensing the tricky situation they were in, started to counter–attack, with No.3 batsman Shane Watson (16) and opener Chris Rogers (56) upping the ante.

Rogers scored his sixth consecutive half–century. His initial ascendancy was complimented by Steven Smith (71), in the form of his life, and Joe Burns (66).

Smith’s Dold Bradmanesque form saw him overtake the Australian batting legend to become the highest run getter in a Test series against India with 769 runs from eight innings.

Bradman scored 715 in six innings in the 1947–48 series.

Ashwin (4/105) was the only bowler who seemed to make a worthwhile impact on the marauding Australian batsmen and was rewarded for his efforts, picking up his best bowling figures outside India.

Indian pacers, particularly Umesh Yadav were plundered all over the park for runs, which dented India’s prospects of a face–saving win having already surrendered the Border–Gavaskar trophy. IANS

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Ankur Kalita

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