When India has registered wins in overseas Tests in 2018, Jasprit Bumrah has been the prime factor. His 5/54 in Johannesburg and 5/85 in Trent Bridge were the only shining lights for India in the dismal tours to South Africa and England. However, his third five-wicket haul has given India a chance to erase the pain of previous defeats. Bumrah’s career-best haul of 6/33 gave India a massive 292-run lead which they stretched to 346 at stumps to put Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team on the path to victory at the end of day 3 of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne on Friday.
However, despite India’s massive lead, Kohli’s decision to not enforce the follow-on on a difficult track and with an Australian batting low on confidence raised plenty of questions. With rain forecast on both day 4 and day 5, Indian fans will be hoping that the decision to not enforce the follow-on and go for the kill does not come back to haunt Kohli. On day 3 though, the majority of fans who were present at the MCG witnessed a masterclass from Bumrah. On a pitch which had variable bounce, the Gujarat pacer proved to be simply unplayable. Australia did not help their cause by playing poor shots and falling to the field trap set cleverly by Kohli.
Finch (8) was the first person to fall for the trap when he uppishly flicked a full ball from Ishant Sharma to be caught smartly by Mayank Agarwal at short-midwicket. Bumrah had already given a demonstration of the damage that he could cause on day 2 when he hit Marcus Harris on the helmet with a sharp bouncer. On day 3, he continued to work on that mental scar. Bumrah banged a short delivery on leg stump and Harris was late on the pull shot, the top edge ballooned to fine leg where Ishant took the catch. Bumrah found a valuable ally in Ravindra Jadeja as he pegged the scoring rate down with his accuracy and he accounted for the dangerous Usman Khawaja for 21.
Mr 360 of bowling
However, Bumrah produced the moment of the match which turned the tide firmly in Kohli’s favour. On the last ball before the lunch break, Bumrah bowled a slow, dipping full toss which sneaked under Shaun Marsh’s bat and he was trapped plumb in front for 19. The wicket before the break had given India tremendous momentum and they never loosened their grip. The wicket of Shaun prompted many analysts to praise Bumrah’s reading of the situation and many dubbed him the ‘complete bowler’.
Following the lunch break, Bumrah produced another gem as he angled in a full ball that nipped back further off the seam to knock over Travis Head for 20. Australia held on until the tea break, with Tim Paine and Pat Cummins hanging on grimly with a solid stand. India sustained the pressure and Shami became the fifth Indian pacer to take 100 wickets in overseas Tests when he went through the defences of Cummins just before the tea break. Following the resumption, Bumrah took care of the one factor that might have limited the damage for Australia and that was running through the tail. The right-arm pacer got Paine with a delivery that straightened outside off and cleaned up Nathan Lyon (0) and Josh Hazlewood (0) in quick succession as he became the first Asian pacer to take a five-wicket haul in England, Australia and South Africa in the same calendar year.
Something to smile for Australia
India took the lead past 300 with Mayank Agarwal once again looking in decent touch. However, Cummins gave Australia something to smile after a tough day. In a devastating spell of bowling, Cummins accounted for Hanuma Vihari for the second time in the match with a bouncer. However, his crowning glory was dismissing Cheteshwar Pujara (0), Virat Kohli (0) and Ajinkya Rahane (1) in a magnificent burst of bowling.
When Josh Hazlewood got Rohit Sharma for 5, India were in danger of losing the momentum but Rishabh Pant and Agarwal ensured India’s lead neared 350. With a batting line-up that is fragile and on a pitch that will assist the bowlers even more, Australia can only hope for rain to play the savior as they look to end what has been a terrible year for them on a slightly positive note.