Pant, Pujara give India glimmer of hope in third Test

Sydney (AFP) –


An aggressive Rishabh Pant and stoic Cheteshwar Pujara kept India's slim hopes of saving the third Test against Australia alive Monday as the tourists reached lunch on the final day with their run chase reduced to 201.

With the four-match series locked at 1-1, India resumed at 98-2, still needing a further 309 runs after being set a huge 407 to win after Australia declared their second innings at tea Sunday on 312 for six.

No team has ever bettered 288 to clinch victory in the fourth innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with Australia achieving that mark against South Africa in 2006.

By the break, India were 206 for three with Pant on 73 and Pujara 41, sharing a threatening 104-run partnership.

Australia removed openers Shubman Gill for 31 and Rohit Sharma for 52 before stumps on day four, and when Nathan Lyon accounted for captain Ajinkya Rahane in Monday's second over the end appeared nigh.

But Pant, who took a nasty blow to his elbow while batting in the first innings and didn't keep wicket on Sunday, surprisingly came in at number five ahead of Hanuma Vihari and produced some fireworks.

He had no strapping on the hurt elbow and, after settling in and surviving a missed catch by Tim Paine on three, began to hit out, smacking a four and a six off Lyon on consecutive balls.

Batting more like it was a Twenty20 match, he then clobbered two more sixes in a row off Lyon before bringing up his third Test 50 off just 64 balls.

Paine dropped him again on 56, both times off Lyon, misses that could prove costly. Pant scored 159 not out when India last played a Test in Sydney during their 2018-19 tour.

At the other end Pujara, who had resumed on nine, made sure he stuck around, moving slowly in support.

India got off to a horror start when Rahane was out on the fourth ball he faced, failing to add to his overnight four.

Lyon did the damage, beating him with a turning ball that caught an inside edge and popped up to Matthew Wade who at short leg.

India, who were bowled out for 244 in their first innings in reply to Australia's 338, could be without Ravindra Jadeja in the run chase after he dislocated his thumb, meaning one less wicket to take.