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Siraj, Shardul simply superb: Share nine wickets setting India 328 for victory in Gabba; rain could be a dampener

10:24 PM Jan 18, 2021 | FPJ News Service

Brisbane

Rain played a dampener, wiping out the last session of day four, soon after Australia had set India 328, but the Gabba Test is all set for final showdown, in this four-Test series between the two best sides in Test cricket, in Gabba on Tuesday.

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Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill were at the crease as they together faced 11 balls, of the possible 23.1 overs left to negotiate before stumps, when rain sent the players into the dressing rooms for the second time in the day and bringing curtains on the day-four proceedings.

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The inconsistent bounce on the wicket should give the hosts a slight edge, however, the weather forecast does not, as day five isn't encouraging.

It was pacers Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur produced another inspirational effort in adverse circumstances but India were set a challenging target, as the Border-Gavaskar Trophy headed towards an exhilarating finale showdown on the ultimate day, Tuesday.

The target is tricky and the Indian batsmen would get a fair idea of whether to go for it by lunch on the last day, which is Tuesday. This was after Siraj and Thakur combined to share nine wickets while dismissing Australia for 294 in their second innings.

Siraj punched way above his weight with his maiden five-wicket haul but couldn't prevent Australia from posting an imposing target for his team in only 75.5 overs of the second innings batting.

The highest target chased at Brisbane is 236 and that was seven decades ago which is an indicator of why this Australian ground can be equated with Fort Knox. The home team hasn't lost a game here since 1988.

Thakur's dream Test match also got better with figures of four for 61 and a match haul of seven wickets. The most poignant moment was his apparent joy when he took the catch to help Siraj pip him to the coveted five-for landmark.

As Siraj showed that scuffed red kookaburra acknowledging the 957 people in the stands on the first working day of the week, the most generous applause came from his partner in crime, who walked a foot behind him clapping with gusto.

It was the day that Test aficionados wait eagerly, ebbs and flows keeping everyone on the edge of their seats.

The possibility of rain adds to the excitement and the changing weather affected the contours of Australia skipper Tim Paine's facial expressions which exhibited relief and despair in equal measures.

Among the two captains, Paine is supposed to be the enforcer but this Indian team hasn't stopped surprising its detractors with a spirit, which has made this series one of the finest played in recent times.

If Weather Gods don't decide to play the boss, there will be an official winner but certainly not a loser.

This is the first Indian team that has earned well-wishers in exponential numbers for soldiering on manfully with no complaints.

A bowling attack with less than four-Test experience (if Thakur's debut is discounted) got 20 wickets without being over-expensive.

Yes, a Mohammed Shami or Jasprit Bumrah's experience would have been invaluable but their absence showed that in terms of temperament, India's next batch of pacers are game-ready.

Yes, they would make mistakes but their predecessors also made plenty on their way to glory.

The two top-quality deliveries that Siraj produced got rid of the opposition's two best batsmen, Marnus Labuschagne (25 off 22 balls) and Steve Smith (55 off 74 balls).

Both deliveries differed from each other as chalk and cheese. Labuschagne got a fuller delivery on the off-stump that moved in a shade and he jabbed at it with Rohit Sharma taking a smart catch at the second slip.

For Smith, who was on the offensive, Siraj produced what in cricketing parlance is known as the "heavy ball" or the "effort ball". The one that climbed and grew big on Smith and forced him to lob one at gully for rival skipper Ajinkya Rahane.

But there was a time during the morning session when Siraj was either being pulled or driven through covers imperiously as David Warner (48 off 75 balls) and Marcus Harris (38 off 82 balls) took control to send him and T Natarajan on a leather-hunt.

Between them, they ad hit 14 boundaries, 11 of them on the day.

And then it was Thakur, who despite his 5 feet 7-inch frame, bounced Harris into swaying. The brush off gloves went to Rishabh Pant.

In the very next over, Warner, who was in sight of his first half-century of the series, was rapped on the back foot by Washington who bowled one that kept straight.

The opener ended up being cramped for a room on the back-foot while going for the cut shot. Four wickets fell in the session as India got back into the match.

The second session saw Smith up the ante before Siraj delivered and another three wickets. A few missed catches made it an exciting contest.

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