Pat Cummins landed a crucial blow just before stumps as Australia homed in on a Test win against India at the SCG. With India flying, Cummins had dangerman Rohit Sharma caught on the fine leg boundary for 52, leaving the tourists 98-2 chasing a ground record 407 to win.
Sharma had led India’s late resurgence on day four before falling to Australia’s form bowler, regularly driving through the covers and pulling Cameron Green for a booming six.
On a day overshadowed by a crowd incident that stopped play for eight minutes, Shubman Gill also went in the final hour for 36.
Tasked with getting through a tough final session and with a draw their likely best hope, the pair exploded out of the blocks before Josh Hazlewood had Gill caught behind.
It left Cheteshwar Pujara (9) and Ajinkya Rahane (4) together at the close, with the pair shaping as India’s last real hope on day five.
No team has ever successfully chased down more than 288 in a Test at the SCG, while the highest anywhere in Australia stands at 414.
If India were to pull off the feat it would be enough to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy given the ledger currently sits at 1-1 with one Test to play in Brisbane.
It came after an electric second session in which Green threatened to score his first Test century but eventually fell in the pursuit of quick runs before Australia declared at 6-312.
Green’s 84 included three massive sixes over long on off quick Mohammed Siraj after passing 50, and another he pulled powerfully from Jasprit Bumrah.
However he fell right on tea trying to heave Bumrah into the crowd again, looking to add to the 25 runs he’d scored from his last nine balls.
Steve Smith’s brilliance had earlier again rammed home the hosts’ advantage, denied back-to-back centuries when he fell lbw to Ravichandran Ashwin on 81.
After a poor start to the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series, Smith now averages 44.4 for the summer.
India only had themselves to blame for Australia’s dominant position.
Hanuma Vihari dropped a sitter from Marnus Labuschagne on the second ball of the day on 47.
By the time Labuschagne went for 73 when he gloved one from Navdeep Saini down the legside, Australia’s lead was 232.
Labuschagne enjoyed a 103-run stand with Smith.
Tim Paine too scored an unbeaten 39 off 52, making India pay for dropping him on seven when he hit four boundaries in five balls shortly after.
India’s position has also not been helped by Rishabh Pant still nursing a heavily strapped arm, while Ravindra Jadeja is unlikely to bat with a dislocated thumb.