London (AFP) – Ravindra Jadeja took his third wicket of the innings but Australia remained in command of the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval on Saturday.
Australia were 201-6 in their second innings at lunch on the fourth day, a lead of 374 runs, with wicketkeeper Alex Carey 41 not out and Mitchell Starc unbeaten on 11.
Left-arm spinner Jadeja, getting sharp turn on a wearing pitch, had miserly figures of 3-45 from 18 overs.
But the scale of the task that India were about to confront could be gauged from the fact that in 146 years of Test history, only four teams have scored more than 400 in the fourth innings to win.
Australia resumed Saturday well-placed at 123-4 despite a sloppy third day that included dropped catches, wickets off no-balls and rash shots that led to the dismissals of first-innings century-makers Steve Smith and Travis Head.
But Marnus Labuschagne, the world’s top-ranked Test batsman, then failed to add to his overnight 41 when he was undone by an Umesh Yadav delivery that curled away and took the outside edge as he tentatively pushed forward, with Cheteshwar Pujara holding a sharp catch at first slip.
Yadav had interval figures of 2-32 from 12 overs,
As another good crowd basked in temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius in south London, Cameron Green drove Mohammed Shami down the ground for a stylish four as he spent time in the middle ahead of next week’s first Ashes Test against England at Edgbaston.
India captain Rohit Sharma turned to Jadeja, who had accounted for Smith and Head on Friday, in the hope of a fresh breakthrough.
And Jadeja succeeded in unusual fashion when Green failed with an attempt to pad away a delivery that pitched outside leg stump, with a sharply turning ball deflecting onto the stumps off his glove.
Green was out for 25 and Australia were 167-6.
The turn being extracted by Jadeja would, however, have encouraged Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
It might have also made India rue their decision to omit star off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, the world’s top-ranked Test bowler, from this match in order to play an extra seamer.
The WTC is the only major men’s cricket trophy Australia have yet to win.
India are appearing in their second WTC final after losing to New Zealand in the inaugural 2021 showpiece match in Southampton.