Australia v India: Shardul Thakur & Washington Sundar lead fightback in Brisbane

By Matthew HenryBBC Sport
Washington Sundar
Sundar is making his Test debut at the age of 21 and is playing in a first-class game for the first time since 2017
Australia v India, the Gabba, Brisbane (day three)
Australia 369: (Labuschagne 108, Paine 50) & 21-0
India 336 (Thakur 67, Sundar 62; Hazlewood 5-57)
Australia lead by 54 runs

A remarkable fightback from India on day three in Brisbane kept them in the decisive fourth Test against Australia.

At 186-6 in reply to Australia's 369, the tourists were facing a substantial first-innings deficit at the Gabba.

But unheralded pair Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar, who had played one previous Test between them, put on 123 in a brilliant seventh-wicket stand.

Thakur made 67 and Sundar 62 before India were bowled out for 336, before Australia reached 21-0 - a lead of 54.

Australia openers David Warner and Marcus Harris survived an awkward 20 minutes late on another fascinating day.

India have been decimated by injuries in a thrilling series - only three of their team in this Test started the first - but now have a fair chance of retaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

They need only draw the Brisbane Test to retain the trophy, while Australia must win to claim a 2-1 victory.

Rain is forecast to interrupt play on the final two days at the Gabba.

Listen to live radio commentary of day four from 23:30 GMT on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website.

India refuse to flinch... again

Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar
Thakur (left) played his one previous Test in 2018 against West Indies

The series promised much and has not disappointed. It has had everything, with the momentum regularly swinging from one team to the other.

But when India's middle order of Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal and Rishabh Pant fell to attacking strokes on Sunday, it looked as though Australia were finally going to strike a decisive blow.

India's inexperienced tail looked long on paper, with 21-year-old Sundar - playing a first first-class match since 2017 - at number seven and Thakur, with a first-class average of 16.00, at eight.

Sundar, known mainly for his off-spin, was only in Australia as a net bowler but an India injury crisis that has seen them lose an entire team resulted in him winning a first Test cap.

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India's sidelined XI: Virat Kohli (paternity leave), KL Rahul (sprained wrist), Hanuma Vihari (hamstring), Ravichandran Ashwin (back), Ravindra Jadeja (dislocated thumb), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (thigh), Umesh Yadav (calf), Mohammed Shami (fractured arm), Navdeep Saini (groin, during fourth Test), Jasprit Bumrah (abdominal strain), Ishant Sharma (side).

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The novice pair had to navigate the second new ball - including a barrage of bouncers - but emerged from that period to flourish in an entertaining partnership.

Thakur struck two sixes and Sundar, who was dropped by Australia wicketkeeper Tim Paine on 45, hit one - a stunning slog sweep off spinner Nathan Lyon.

It was a partnership that epitomised the determination and refusal to be beaten India have demonstrated in the series since the ignominy of being bowled out for 36 in the opening Test.

"We thought at 186-6 we were well on top but it was a rearguard action," said Australia bowler Hazlewood, who took 5-57. "We expected that. It has been like that all series."

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India's character in the series

  • Bowled out for 36 in a heavy defeat in the first Test, before captain and star batsman Virat Kohli returns home for the birth of his child.
  • They respond in stunning fashion in the second Test, winning by eight wickets inside four days.
  • Australia take control of the third match but India show real defiance to bat out the final day for a draw.
  • The tourists lose star bowlers Ravichandran Ashwin and Jasprit Bumrah, all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and batsman Hanuma Vihari to injury before the deciding Test.
  • Facing a match-shaping first-innings deficit, Thakur and Sundar lead the latest fightback to keep a depleted India's hopes alive.

Can Australia force win in 'thrilling' finale?

Australia now face a battle against time, the weather and their doughty opponents as they try to secure victory in the series.

They will look to bat for the majority of day four and build a lead that allows them to declare then set about bowling India out on the final day - but possibly also give the tourists a hint of victory themselves.

Hazlewood said his side would want three-and-a-half sessions to take India's 10 wickets.

"Paine will have to think long and hard," former Australia captain Ian Chappell told ABC television. "Really he has to dangle the carrot [of victory]. The draw is not doing him any good at all."

Former Australia bowler Dirk Nannes said: "Three-and-a-half sessions requires Warner and co to get a wriggle on.

"Australia need bait for India to go for the runs to try and get victory. It is going to be such a fine line of how much is too much and how much just enough to give a sniff so they will keep playing shots.

"It will be a thrilling end to a stunning series."

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