Careless footwork and sloppy catching halted Australia’s progress as India fought back on the third morning of the World Test Championship final at the Oval.
Australia enjoyed a dream start when Scott Boland scattered Srikar Bharat’s stumps with the second ball of the day, leaving India 317 behind with just four wickets in hand, but despite creating plenty of chances that was the only breakthrough of the session.
Usman Khawaja, Cameron Green and David Warner all put down chances to allow a century stand between Ajinkya Rahane (89no) and Shardul Thakur (36no) to shore up India on 260 for six at lunch, a deficit of 209.
Captain Pat Cummins also erred, denied a possible wicket for the second time in the innings due to a front-foot no-ball. He had Rahane lbw for 17 on day two, only for replays to show he had overstepped, and he saw history repeating itself just before the break when he had Thakur given out after being struck on the knee-roll.
Umpire Richard Kettleborough immediately raised his finger, much to Australia’s relief, but a DRS review showed Cummins had once again failed to get anything behind the line.
Boland, pushing hard to retain his place for next week’s Ashes opener at Edgbaston, started superbly as he ripped his second delivery through a small gap between Bharat’s bat and pad and straight into middle.
Had Thakur’s thick edge been held by Khawaja in the cordon four balls later, India may well have struggled to come back from it. Instead the ball squirmed out of his fingertips and the battle continued.
Thakur needed plenty of bravery to stick around, requiring lengthy treatment after being hit three times by Cummins in a single over – wearing blows on the forearm, wrist and glove.
Having softened him up, the seamer should have got his rewards when Thakur sprayed a chance to gully but this time Green’s handiwork let him down.
With Thakur in a state of almost permanent danger, Rahane gave the vocal Indian crowd something to cheer when he hooked Cummins over fine-leg for six to bring up his half-century.
He passed 5,000 Test runs soon after, the 13th Indian to do so, but he also required a stroke of fortune to reach the break.
On 72 he aimed a flowing drive at Cummins, sending a head-high catch to first slip. Wicketkeeper Alex Carey appeared to offer a minor distraction to Warner, but he will still be kicking himself after seeing the ball pop out and land safe.
A handful of boundaries took the partnership into three figures as India began to have some fun, while Australia’s annoyance only increased when Cummins saw his lbw against Thakur overturned by the no-ball call.