Dubai: It was a century to remember for Nathan Lyon as the Australia spinner struck in his 100th Test to claim the vital wicket of Rohit Sharma during the decisive fourth Test against India in Brisbane at the Gabba. Lyon was in the thick of action, dismissing dangerous India opener Sharma in his third over on Saturday after playing a late cameo with the bat for Australia.
India were 62-2 at tea on day two of the series-deciding match in reply to Australia’s 369. Heavy rain during the break soaked the outfield and, after two pitch inspections, umpires called off play without a ball being bowled in the evening session.
India’s injury-depleted attack did exceptionally well to dismiss Australia by lunch on the second day, with Thangarasu Natarajan (3-78) and Washington Sundar (3-89) each taking three wickets on debut and Shardul Thakur returning 3-94.
Pat Cummins took the first wicket for Australia with his second ball of the match, with Shubman Gill (7) fending forward and edging to second slip, where Steve Smith took a sharp chance.
Opener Sharma (44) and No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara combined to move the total from 11 to 60 and were starting to get on top of the Australian pace bowlers before Lyon struck.
Sharma tried to take on the veteran off-spinner but miscued and skied a catch into the outfield to Mitchell Starc, who ran in from long-on and took a sliding catch.
Pujara was 8 not out from 49 deliveries and India’s stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane was on 2 at the interval as clouds loomed over the Gabba. They didn’t return to the field, and play is scheduled to start a half-hour early on Sunday.
The series is tied 1-1 and India need only a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy. But the inexperienced Indian bowling attack kept the tourists in the contest despite missing pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah and leading spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
Australia resumed Saturday at 274-5 and the innings was steadily building in a 98-run partnership between skipper Tim Paine (50) and all-rounder Cameron Green (47) until India snared three wickets for four runs in 14 deliveries to slump to 315-8.
Thakur got the big breakthrough, when Paine chased an outswinger and was caught at second slip by Sharma. Sundar bowled Green out in the next over with an off-break delivery that turned the other way, straightened and beat the edge.
When Thakur trapped Cummins lbw with a full ball hitting around ankle height, the Australians were in danger of an embarrassing batting collapse.
But a 39-run ninth-wicket stand between Lyon and Starc staved that off and helped Australia pass the 350 mark before Sundar struck again close to lunch.
Lyon, whose cameo innings grew in confidence when he pulled Thakur behind square for a boundary and drove the next ball straight down the ground for another four, was dismissed for 24 from 22 deliveries when he attempted a sweep to a straight ball from Sundar that rattled his stumps.
Starc finished unbeaten on 20 when fellow paceman Hazlewood was out for 11.
The first session followed a similar rhythm to the opening day, when Australian batsmen made starts but didn’t go on with it.
Marnus Labuschagne (108) shared partnerships of 70 with Steve Smith (36) and 113 with Matthew Wade (45) to build the innings after Australia won the toss, batted and slipped early to 17-2.
The Australians added 37 on Saturday before India hit back.
India’s pace attack, led by Mohammed Siraj in his third test, performed admirably despite dealing with yet another injury. Navdeep Saini left the field on Friday with a ball remaining in his eighth over because of a groin strain and wasn’t able to bowl on Saturday morning.