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WTC Final: Kohli-Rahane’s unbeaten 71-run stand keeps India alive in daunting chase of 444

Australia looked to be in a prime position to win the World Test Championship Final when they declared on 270/8, as Alex Carey top-scored with 66 not out, and set India a daunting target of 444 at The Oval on Saturday.

In their pursuit of breaking the world record of 418 for the most successful fourth innings chase in a Test match, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane put together a solid unbeaten 71-run partnership for the fourth wicket, on yet another day of gripping action, and take India to 164/3 at stumps on Day Four.

On a pitch that flattened out and was devoid of demons in terms of movement and bounce, Kohli was in fantastic touch to be 44 not out off just 60 balls, with Rahane unconquered on 20.

The duo’s efforts meant the match is set up towards an exciting finish, as India are still alive in the chase with 280 runs needed while Australia will be aiming to get seven right balls to bowl them out quickly on day five.

India made a fast start as Rohit Sharma looked classy in pull and on-drive off Pat Cummins to pick two quick boundaries. Shubman Gill joined the party with a gentle punch through cover and getting a thick edge wide of the gully for a brace of f’urs. Rohit’s brilliant timing continued when he flicked Scott Boland for four and pulled Mitchell Starc over long leg for six.

But Gill fell when Boland extracted the outside edge off his defensive prod, and the ball flew low to Cameron Green’s left, who took out his left hand for taking a one-handed screamer, with the third umpire adjudging it as a clean catch and tea taken immediately as fans debated whether the batter was out or not.

Cheteshwar Pujara began the final session by cracking a fierce cut through point off Boland for four while surviving an inside edge off him for another boundary. Rohit continued to be in great touch, pulling and driving beautifully off Starc’to bring India’s fifty in just nine overs.

Pujara followed it up by gently clipping and driving through mid-off against Starc for boundaries, followed by flicking off Cummins to pick another four. Rohit was exquisite in cutting off Starc and pulling against Green to pick a brace of fours to raise fifty of the partnership.

But Australia bounced back by taking out the duo in quick succession. Rohit tried to sweep against Nathan Lyon from around the wicket, but the ball went under the bat to be trapped lbw. Pujara, meanwhile, tried to upper-cut against Cummins but got a thick toe-edge behind to keeper Alex Carey.

Kohli looked in zone from the time he arrived at the crease – bringing his bottom-hand and supple wrists into play to hit five boundaries off pacers in the arc from mid-on to backward square leg, apart from a glorious off-drive against Starc for another boundary.

Rahane, playing with an injured right index finger, proved to be his perfect partner, oozing pristine timing in his sweep, steer, and drive. Kohli again brought out the bright off-drive against Starc for four and ended the day by glancing Lyon through fine leg for another four.

Earlier, Carey showed fine composure and muddled his shots well to hit eight fours in his unbeaten 105-bal’ vigil to take Australia’s lead to 443 before the declaration arrived. He found an able ally in Mitchell Starc, who made a nice 41 while sharing a quick 93-run stand for the seventh wicket.

India had a bright start to the day as Umesh Yadav had Marnus Labuschagne caught at first slip. Umesh got the delivery to come in and swung away late to take the ‘utside edge on Labuschagne’s defence to first slip, with the batter adding nothing to his overnight score of 41.

Green and Carey continued to add more to Australia’s big lead, playing slowly while finding a couple of boundaries as the ball got older, with the drives of the pacers being the standout shots. Ravindra Jadeja broke the 43-run partnership as he got the ball to spin in from over the wicket and ‘ounce sharply, hitting Green’s gloves and lobbing to hit the stumps.

Carey kept the reverse sweep, which caused his downfall in the first innings, completely away when facing Jadeja and went on to cut twice off Mohammed Siraj through’the off-side to take Australia’s lead to 350.

Starc took a four off Jadeja through a late cut to swell the lead, followed by Carey driving a half-volley from the left-arm spinner for another boundary. The duo rotated strike to perfection on a weary pitch till lunch arrived.

Post lunch, Starc began by driving Jadeja through mid-off for four, followed by feasting on overpitched deliveries from Umesh to hit back-to-back boundaries. On the other hand, Carey was lucky in getting an outside edge between first and second slip for four, followed by reaching his fifty in 82 balls.

Carey was lucky in getting a four through an outside edge off Jadeja while Starc dispatched Umesh over mid-on for a boundary. After the new ball was taken, there was no respite for India as Carey survived chopping on to his stumps, with the ball going for four.

Starc pulled and sliced Shami for back-to-back fours before being caught at first slip, breaking 93-run stand. Cummins lofted Siraj over mid-on for four before holing out to point off Shami, with the declaration coming immediately from Australia, who would take th’ee Indian wickets by the time day four’s play ended.

Brief scores:

Australia 469 and 270/8 decl. in 84.3 overs (Alex Carey 66 not out, Mitchell Starc 41; Ravindra Jadeja 3-58, Mohammed Shami 2-39) lead India 296 and 164/3 in 40 overs (Virat Kohli 44 not out, Rohit Sharma 43; Nathan Lyon 1-32, Scott Boland 1-38) by 280 runs

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