LONDON (Reuters) . Australia were on the verge of winning the World Test Championship as India’s dreams of chasing down a massive 444-run victory goal seemed to be fading as they finished day four on 164-3.
When Australia captain Pat Cummins declared their second innings on 270-8, India’s task seemed daunting.
With Shubman Gill (18), Rohit Sharma (43) and Cheteshwar Pujara (27) back in the pavilion with the deficit down to 93 runs, many questioned if India would be able to extend the match into a fifth day.
Indian supporters would be wise to ignore the numbers in the record books that imply they have been assigned a mission impossible.
If India is to win their first global ICC trophy in ten years, they will need to complete the most successful fourth-innings run chase in history.
West Indies established the record in 2003 as they chased down 418 points to defeat Australia in Antigua.
India’s quest is made more difficult by the fact that the highest-ever successful run chase at The Oval is 263, which England did against Australia more than a century ago, in 1902.
Following Australia’s declaration, India came out battling, with captain Sharma timing the ball well as he stroked many boundaries and even struck a magnificent six.
By tea, though, they were down one man as Cameron Green made a superb, if dubious, left-handed diving catch off a Scott Boland ball to remove opener Gill. Several camera replays were inconclusive as to whether the ball had touched the ground before Green made the catch.
While Indian spectators chanted “cheat, cheat, cheat,” Australia wicketkeeper Alex Carey said, “I thought he caught it fair and square.” From where I was, everything looked nice, and he seemed pleased. “The correct choice was made.”
Sharma, though, was unconvinced, and his complaints to the umpires fell on deaf ears as Gill walked away.
When Sharma and Pujara were out in the space of six deliveries, leaving India on 93-3, there were worries that India might replicate their first-innings collapse.
BOWLING WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS
Former captain Virat Kohli (44 not out) and Ajinkya Rahane (20 not out) ensured they got it through the last overs and will be looking for a miracle on Sunday after surviving Australia’s unrelenting bowling attack.
Earlier in the day, Australia maintained to their “crawling” strategy of establishing a large win objective for India.
After resuming on 123-4, Marnus Labuschagne (41) gulped up 126 balls, Green (25) battled 95 deliveries, while Alex Carey resisted the Indian bowlers for 105 balls to stay undefeated on 66.
When Labuschagne stood at the crease in bewilderment after being caught at first slip in the third over of the day, Indian supporters began dancing down the aisles.
Following a few of stinging body punches, Labuschagne was perplexed by fast bowler Umesh Yadav’s ball, nicking it right into Pujara’s clutches.
He needed 126 balls to reach 41 runs, and his dismissal with the Australians on 124-5 provoked cries of “India jeetega, jeetega” (India will triumph) across the stadium.
Green and Carey ignored the commotion as they steadily increased Australia’s advantage to 340 runs until India eventually made another breakthrough.
Green failed to play a stroke against spinner Ravindra Jadeja, and the ball swung quickly on to his pad and glove before knocking out the bails, much to the chagrin of the batsman.
Carey and Mitchell Starc began to play more freely after Australia had built a 400-run advantage until fast bowler Mohammed Shami terminated their 93-run partnership.
Starc was out for 41 after clipping the ball to Kohli at first slip, and Cummins declared the innings after five balls and five runs.