Harris blazes to 77 as Australia fight back against India

Australia’s Marcus Harris hits a boundary during the third day’s play of the fourth and final cricket Test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on January 5, 2019. (AFP pic)

SYDNEY: A fired up Marcus Harris blazed an unbeaten 77 as Australia showed some backbone in the final Test at Sydney Saturday as they work to reel in India’s huge first innings total.

At lunch on day three, they were 122 for one with the aggressive Harris leading from the front, supported by Marnus Labuschagne who was not out 18. Usman Khawaja was the only wicket to fall, for 27.

India took a stranglehold on the match over the opening two days, compiling a massive 622 for seven declared on the back of centuries from irrepressible Cheteshwar Pujara and livewire Rishabh Pant.

So dominant were they that Pant and Ravindra Jadeja stitched together a record 204-run seventh wicket partnership in Sydney, leaving Australia’s bowlers exhausted and dispirited.

India lead 2-1 after victories in Adelaide and Melbourne and are fast closing in on an historic first-ever series win since they first toured Australia in 1947-48.

Skipper Virat Kohli’s declaration left Khawaja and Harris to face 10 nervous overs before stumps on Friday, when they crawled to 24 without loss.

Khawaja was dropped by Pant behind the stumps on nought but failed to make the most of his second life.

On a day when the Sydney Cricket Ground was a sea of pink to mark a breast cancer awareness initiative, he was dismissed after mistiming a shot off wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav with Pujara taking an easy catch.

At the other end the diminutive Harris, who has shown flashes of brilliance in his short four-Test career, quickly found a groove with some crisp shots around the ground.

He survived a close call on 24 when a drive to a diving KL Rahul fell just at his fingertips. In an act of sportsmanship, Rahul quickly signalled to the umpires that he failed to cleanly take the catch.

Harris reached his second Test 50 with a single off Jasprit Bumrah then smacked three fours in one Yadav over. He has already made his highest Test score and on a lifeless pitch has a perfect opportunity to press on.

So far, none of Australia’s batsmen has managed to reach three figures the entire series, while India has had a field day, compiling five centuries.

Australia gambled by picking inexperienced allrounder Labuschagne to come in at number three, but he has so far looked solid, stroking two stylish boundaries.