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Australia fights back in tough position in 3rd test vs India

December 28, 2018
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The Australian Cricket team walks off the field at the end of days play during play on day three of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia pace bowler Pat Cummins took four wickets in eight balls but India retained the upper hand with a 346-run advantage after an action-packed third day of the third cricket test.

On a Melbourne Cricket Ground pitch offering variable bounce, Australia lost 10 first-innings wickets and India reached 54-5 at stumps on Friday. India holds an overall lead of 346 runs with five second-innings wickets in hand.

Fast bowler Jasprit 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. Australia’s brittle batting lineup was bowled out for 151 in reply to India’s 443-7 declared.

But Cummins (4-10) gave the 33,447 fans at the MCG something to cheer about as India slumped from 28-0 to 32-4.

Hanuma Vihari (13) edged a short ball to gully in Cummins’ second over, and in his third over the right-arm quick removed star batsmen Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli for ducks. Both were caught at leg gully.

Pujara had scored 106 in India’s first innings, adding 170 for the third wicket with world No.1-ranked Kohli (82).

A fired-up Cummins broke through again at the start of his fourth over, placing him on a hat-trick, after Ajinkya Rahane (one) was caught behind.

New batsman Rohit Sharma made five before edging to first slip off Josh Hazlewood’s bowling at 44-5. Debutant Mayank Agarwal (28) and Rishabh Pant (six) reached stumps unbeaten.

Cummins said even South African umpire Marais Erasmus was surprised to see India lose 4-4 after going along comfortably to 28-0.

“I think that’s why we love test cricket so much,” Cummins said. “He (Erasmus) goes ‘you never know what’s going to happen with cricket’.

“I certainly wasn’t expecting it. I was pretty surprised that 15 wickets fell today.”

Cummins said Australia’s inexperienced batting group was missing suspended stars Steve Smith and David Warner, who are serving 12-month bans following the ball-tampering incident in Cape Town in March.

“Others have to stand up,” Cummins said. “We’ve definitely got the batsmen. Hopefully it just clicks soon.

“The lead’s just under 350. If we knock them over in the morning, you just never know. You dare to dream.”

Opener Marcus Harris and captain Tim Paine top-scored for Australia with 22 runs each in an embarrassing display from the home side on a pitch that admittedly made batting difficult.

Australia had resumed on Friday on 8-0 and staggered to 89-4 at lunch. Aaron Finch (eight), Harris (22), Usman Khawaja (21) and Shaun Marsh (19) all departed cheaply.

Bumrah claimed a third victim when he bowled Travis Head (20) at 92-5. The exit of all-rounder Mitch Marsh (nine), caught at slip off Jadeja’s bowling, exposed Australia’s tail.

India’s captain Kohli chose not to enforce the follow-on.

Bumrah recorded his third five-wicket haul with a fine display of seam and reverse-swing bowling. The 25-year-old, who made his debut in January, has taken 45 test wickets in 2018.

Bumrah said his slower ball to Shaun Marsh, which trapped the left-hander lbw on the last ball before lunch, was a highlight of his six-wicket haul.

“I tried to bowl a fuller, slower ball,” he said. “The ball had started reversing. You try to make the most of it.”

Bumrah said he was “not surprised” by his brilliant debut year at test level.

’If I don’t believe in myself, who else will?” he said.

The four-test series is level at one-all. India has never won a test series in Australia.

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