Third Test Match

AUSTRALIA v INDIA 1991-92

Toss: India.

Deferring to the Sydney pitch's reputation as a turner, Australia took aboard the uncapped leg-spinner Shane Warne, instead of off-spinner Peter Taylor. Adopting the opposite policy, India replaced slow left-armer Raju with a fourth seamer, the d├ębutant Banerjee, and put Australia in, a hard pitch and a clear sky notwithstanding. Though Banerjee took three out of four wickets on the first day, India sorely missed a specialist spinner as they sought victory on the last afternoon, when the bounce was uneven and the ball was turning, albeit slowly.

The Indians not only batted and bowled better than Australia; their fielding and running between wickets were so vastly improved that they were unrecognisable. But for the loss of 94.1 overs to bad light and rain on the third and fourth days, they would have won. Australia's bowling was grievously weakened when Reid strained a side muscle after bowling four overs. But on the first day the Indians seemed to have shot themselves in the foot by fielding. It was only when they took the new ball next morning that, helped by cloud cover, India seized the initiative. Kapil Dev dismissed Border for the third time in the series, and three wickets from Prabhakar pinned back Australia to 269 for eight within an hour. Boon, who punished the bad ball unerringly, was to remain unbeaten on 129.

By the end of the day India had lost Sidhu, recently flown in as a replacement opener, and Manjrekar. Shastri and Vengsarkar batted stoically through the shortened third day, though Shastri offered Warne a difficult return chance. In the morning McDermott removed Vengsarkar and Azharuddin in one over with the new ball, but Australia did not claim another wicket until tea when Shastri, having reached his first double-century in a Test, fell to a tired shot at Warne after nine a half hours, 17 fours and two sixes. He had shared India's highest ever fifth-wicket partnership (196) against Australia with Tendulkar, who later became the youngest man to score a Test century in Australia. His mature and fluent innings lasted 298 minutes.

India batted on into the fifth day - mistakenly, it seemed. But the decision looked far better when the pace bowlers reduced Australia to 55 for three, and then Shastri took three wickets to make the score 114 for six. The collapse was checked by Border, assisted first by Hughes and then by Warne, who helped block out the last seven minutes.

Man of the Match: R. J. Shastri.

Attendance: 54,263.

close of play: First day, Australia 234-4 (D. C. Boon 89*, A. R. Border 14*); Second day, India 103-2 (R. J. Shastri 52*, D. B. Vengsarkar 13*); Third day, India 178-2 (R. J. Shastri 95*, D. B. Vengsarkar 43*); Fourth day, India 445-7 (S. R. Tendulkar 120*, C. S. Pandit 3*).

© John Wisden & Co