Sundar-Thakur rearguard brings India back into Brisbane contest


(Reuters) - Debutant Washington Sundar and number eight batsman Shardul Thakur conjured a defiant rearguard action on Sunday to drag India back into the contest in the deciding fourth test against Australia being played in Brisbane.

Drafted into the playing XI because of injuries to India's frontline bowlers, the duo smashed maiden test fifties to deny Australia a substantial first innings lead.

Having finally bowled India out for 336, Australia finished day three on 21 for no loss, an overall lead of 54 runs in the final match of a see-saw series which remains level at 1-1.

David Warner, batting on 20, and Marcus Harris (one) saw through the final 20 minutes at the Gabba without being separated.

Earlier, India were reeling at 186-6 in reply to Australia's first innings total of 369, but Sundar's defiant 123-run seventh wicket collaboration with Thakur rescued the tourists.

Playing only his second test, Shardul brought up his fifty with his second six, nonchalantly hitting spinner Nathan Lyon over the long-on rope.

Sundar, who had claimed three wickets in Australia's first innings, completed his fifty in the next over in a less spectacular fashion taking a single off Mitchell Starc.

"It's obviously a crucial partnership by them," Josh Hazlewood, who returned 5-57, said.

"We had them, I think, about six for 200, around that mark. So we thought we were well on top there and to be fair, the guys batted really well."

Their resolute batting contrasted the dubious shot selection by some of their top order team mates.

Resuming on 62 for two, the tourists added 43 runs before Hazlewood dismissed the obdurate Cheteshwar Pujara for 25.

Skipper Ajinkya Rahane chased a wide Starc delivery to depart for 37 and Hazlewood struck twice after lunch to dismiss Mayank Agarwal (38) and Rishabh Pant (23).

Pant perished attempting a Twenty20 shot, trying to steer a rising delivery over the slip and finding Cameron Green at gully instead.

Sundar, who made 62, and Thakur frustrated the hosts, aided by the occasional stroke of luck.

Thakur smashed nine boundaries in his belligerent 67 and by the time Pat Cummins pegged back his off-stump, India had crossed the 300-mark.

"The idea was to bat as long as possible," Thakur said in a video conference.

"The more we score, the less would be their lead. We just wanted to spend some time there."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom and Amlan Chakraborty; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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