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Cricket-Australia post daunting WTC target for India

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By Pritha Sarkar

LONDON (Reuters) – Australia set India what looked like an insurmountable 444-run victory target as Alex Carey scored a tenacious half century to put Pat Cummins’s side firmly in control on day four of the World Test Championship (WTC) final on Saturday.

Indian fans will do well to block out the statistics listed in the record books which suggest they have been set a mission impossible after Australia opted to wait until they had reached 270-8 to declare their second innings.

India came out fighting, with skipper Rohit Sharma making clear his side would not be handing over the trophy on a platter as he launched a spectacular six and it seemed in no time they had cut that deficit to 403 runs.

But by tea, they were already down one man after Cameron Green took a spectacular left-handed diving catch to dismiss opener Shubman Gill for 18 from a Scott Boland delivery.

Sharma remained unbeaten on 22 as India headed into the break on 41 for one.

India will have to pull off their highest-ever successful fourth-innings run chase if they are to win their first global ICC trophy in 10 years.

India’s best-ever fourth-innings run chase was scoring 406-4 against West Indies in Port of Spain in 1976. Their task will look even more daunting since the highest-ever successful run chase at The Oval is 263, which England achieved against Australia more than a century ago, in 1902.

For their part, Australia already appear to have one hand on the WTC trophy after they stuck to their tactic of “crawling” towards setting India a big victory target.

Resuming their second innings on 123-4, slow-and-steady was the order of the day for Australia as Marnus Labuschagne (41) swallowed up 126 balls, Cameron Green (25) faced 96 balls and Alex Carey frustrated the Indian bowlers for 105 balls to remain unbeaten on 66.

Indian fans started dancing down the aisles when Labuschagne stood at the crease in disbelief after being caught at first slip in just the third over of the day.

After suffering a couple of painful body blows, Labuschagne appeared bamboozled by fast bowler Umesh Yadav’s delivery as he nicked it straight into the palms of Cheteshwar Pujara.

He took 126 balls to score 41 and his exit with the Australians on 124-5 sparked chants of “India jeetega, jeetega” (“India will win”) around the ground.

Green and Carey blocked out the hullabaloo as they cautiously built up Australia’s lead to 340 runs when India finally made another breakthrough.

Facing spinner Ravindra Jadeja’s delivery, Green failed to play a shot and the ball spun sharply on to his pad and glove before knocking off the bails to the astonishment of the batsman who departed after scoring 25 from 95 balls.

Once Australia had opened up a 400-run lead, Carey and Mitchell Starc started to play more freely before pace bowler Mohammed Shami ended the 93-run partnership.

Starc clipped the ball to Virat Kohli at first slip to fall for 41 and after Cummins lasted just five balls to score five, he declared the innings.

(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Fallon)

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