Australia stumble after solid start in Sydney

Australia’s batting woes returned on the third day of the fourth test on Saturday as they slumped to 198 for five at the tea interval in their response to India’s mammoth first-innings tally of 622-7 declared.

The tourists only need a draw to claim a first series win in Australia and the home side’s hopes of even preventing that faded in the second session as Marcus Harris, Marnus Labuschagne, Shaun Marsh and Travis Head were all dismissed.

Peter Handscomb, unbeaten on 21, and skipper Tim Paine, who had made five, were at the crease at the interval as rainclouds gathered over a Sydney Cricket Ground swathed in pink for the McGrath Foundation breast cancer support charity day.

Opener Harris fell soon after lunch but at least enjoyed the prestige of posting the highest score for an Australian in a four-test series in which Indian batsmen have pillaged five centuries on their way to a 2-1 lead.

The left-hander showed plenty of intent in his 79 but just when it appeared he could be heading for a maiden test ton, he calamitously played the ball onto his own stumps off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja.

Spinner Jadeja also accounted for Marsh, who must surely have exhausted his supply of test recalls after departing for eight, having left his bat hanging to gift Ajinkya Rahane the simplest of catches at first slip.

Rahane had to work considerably harder for the catch at short midwicket that dismissed Labuschagne for 38, diving low to his left to grab the ball with both hands off the bowling of paceman Mohammed Shami.

Kuldeep Yadav made Travis Head his second victim of the day shortly before the break, the batsman charging down the track to take on the left-arm wrist spinner, only to send the ball straight back to him for the catch.

The surface that India’s batsmen had plundered almost at will for two days was still offering little movement for the bowlers and the Australian lineup will be cursing themselves for some soft dismissals after a solid start to the day.

The openers had put on 72 when Usman Khawaja, moved up from number three to replace the dropped Aaron Finch, miscued a slog off Kuldeep to depart for 27 in the opening session.