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Gritty Cummins makes India wait for victory

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Cummins takes Test into fifth day with India on the brink (1:30)

The Australia No. 8 struck an unbeaten 61 as Australia finished day four on 8 for 258, needing 141 more for an improbable victory (1:30)

Australia 151 and 8 for 258 (Cummins 61*, Jadeja 3-82, Bumrah 2-53) need 141 more to beat India 7 for 443 dec. and 8 for 106 dec. (Agarwal 42, Cummins 6-27)

For the fourth day in a row, Pat Cummins stood as the only considerable obstacle in India's push for a 2-1 lead before the Sydney Test. Australia showed more fight in their second innings, but India's bowling was too much to handle. No team has chased more than 332 at the MCG, and in the absence of any of the forecast rain, the 399 India set was too steep for Australia to do more than delay what still looks a grim defeat. They need 141 to win as India look to take an unassailable lead and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Australia's middle order resisted longer than they had in the first innings, but it was yet another day of getting in only to get out. It was symptomatic of a year in which Australia have made only four individual hundreds, three of which came in the first match of the year. On Saturday, they needed hundreds - from batsmen and from partnerships - but they only managed one half-century stand.

The opening stand didn't last beyond the second over. Aaron Finch survived an lbw shout off Jasprit Bumrah's first ball, only to waft at the next incoming delivery and edge it to Virat Kohli at second slip. Marcus Harris was gutsy without being so for long yet again, having survived a menacing spell against pace only to offer hard hands to be caught at short leg off Ravindra Jadeja.

Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh had ideas to counter Jadeja, using their feet often to hit him into the leg side, with the occasional reverse sweep from Khawaja to trim the deficit before lunch. But India found a way. The plan after lunch had been to attack the stumps with Jadeja and the outside edge with Mohammed Shami bowling around the wicket. Khawaja, in particular, had settled in and was largely staying leg side of the ball and defending close to his body, if he had to play at all. That was until Kohli moved from slip into leg gully at the start of a Shami over, allowing him to bowl straighter. He was rewarded instantly, getting one to straighten from middle to catch Khawaja's back leg in front of off stump.

A similar change in line from Bumrah accounted for Shaun Marsh, his lbw decision much closer than Khawaja's. But ball-tracking indicated the ball would have clipped leg stump and the on-field decision stood. Batting became progressively easier from there in the middle session, with the conditions not aiding reverse-swing as much as they had in the first innings, and so the wickets of Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head would have particularly stung Australia. The former, having biffed Jadeja over long-on, found Kohli at extra cover with an aerial drive. Head - impressive with his feet once again, particularly while hitting through the off side - played another one onto his stumps when he swished away from the body against Ishant Sharma.

Tim Paine and Cummins have both shown the ability to stay organised under pressure, and they did so for a bit, before Jadeja changed his angle to left-arm over and had Paine attempt a cut to be caught behind. Cummins, in contrast, was stubborn throughout his innings in offering the straight bat, barely chasing at deliveries outside off. He waited 41 balls before his first boundary stroke, a sweetly-timed loft over long-off against Jadeja that had most on-air broadcasters convinced he should be in Australia's top six in the fourth Test. He delivered further on those exaltations with more picturesque drives through the off side against the seamers, saving his best until the new ball was taken late in the day. The first, an expansive crash through extra-cover against Bumrah, brought him his fifty. Then, a classy, high-elbow punch wide of mid-off against Ishant.

But neither of those quite drew applause from the MCG crowd like his straight drive against Ishant two balls later. An imperious shot on the up past the bowler, the kind neither team has played since this pitch began opening up on the third day. It was the final stamp of his dominance, and a mild jibe at his mates in the top order, as he took Australia to stumps with Nathan Lyon, who currently has the highest average - 41 - for an Australian batsman in this series.

Earlier, India had begun the day on 5 for 54. Overnight batsmen Mayank Agarwal and Rishabh Pant came out to attack the bowling, but strokemaking wasn't any easier against pace than it had been on Friday. So Agarwal went after Lyon, stepping out and lofting him over his head for two sixes in the same over. But Cummins was on call once again for Australia, pegging him back into the crease until he got one to keep low and had him playing on to off stump. That gave Cummins his fifth, and soon he had Jadeja fending at a bouncer to give him career-best figures. All six of his wickets came with the batsmen on the back foot. Josh Hazlewood, the only other bowler with wickets in the innings, got Pant with a short one in the next over, which prompted India to declare.

The wicket had come after Pant had drilled him over long-on off the previous delivery. It was one of the wicketkeeper's few highlights, as he put down Head twice off consecutive deliveries from Jadeja later in the day. He went on to make amends later, by holding onto Paine, after adding a comedic episode to their banter series.