Australia found themselves in a position of strength early on day four of the Brisbane Test against India, thanks to a sizeable opening stand between David Warner and Marcus Harris.
The duo stitched the highest opening partnership of the series, overtaking the 71 put up by Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill in Sydney. While India did manage to make a comeback, picking up four wickets for 34 runs, Tim Paine and Australia would still be looking at the best-case scenario, and the right time to declare.
Australia were looking at a three-figure lead halfway through the third day, having reduced India to 186-6 at one point. However, an incredible partnership between Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur, coupled with an entertaining cameo from Mohammed Siraj, truncated the lead.
Highest opening partnerships in the #AUSvIND series so far:
72* ➜ Warner & Harris, Brisbane, TODAY
71 ➜ Rohit & Gill, Sydney
70 ➜ Wade & Burns, Adelaide
70 ➜ Rohit & Gill, Sydney pic.twitter.com/iVdpxnQLlq
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) January 18, 2021
When Warner and Harris walked out to bat later in the day, Australia led by just 33 runs. However, their quick run-scoring on the fourth morning has put pressure on India, their lead going into three figures at a venue Australia haven’t lost in since 1968.
The hosts’ incredible record at the Gabba combined with fourth-innings statistics and weather reports from Brisbane suggests that they could be ideally looking to declare at tea. In fact, Paine might even be considering the possibility of calling his batsmen back before that, if the middle order manages to continue the good work of the openers.
The Australia pundits agree. “I think they will want to be just about declaring by tea time,” said commentator Mark Waugh. “The forecast is storms. Hopefully, we get two sessions in at least. That is plenty of cricket and plenty of time.”
“If I was Australia and Tim Paine, I’d say we are batting until tea and whatever we’ve got, we’ve got,” Shane Warne added.
Highest successful run-chases at the Gabba
Australia v West Indies: 236-7, 1951
Australia v West Indies: 219-2, 1975
Australia v England: 190-3, 1982
Australia v England: 173-0, 2017
England v Australia: 170-3, 1978
The highest successful run-chase from a visiting team in Brisbane came in 1978 and an away side has won at the venue just five times. These numbers aren’t quite promising for India.
However, the highest fourth-innings totals at the venue overall might give them more confidence:
450 by Pakistan in 2016
370 by England in 2006
355 by India in 1968
324 by India in 1977
323 by England in 1994
In addition to these, New Zealand scored 295 in Brisbane in 2015. However, Australia can take respite from the fact that all six teams ended up losing the Test despite their heroics. The highest fourth-innings totals in a draw at the Gabba are England’s 278-6 in 1962 and New Zealand’s 276-4 in 2001.
Whether or not Paine wants to declare before tea, Brisbane’s weather forecast might just make the decision for him. There is a 60% probability for thunderstorms on the fourth and fifth afternoon.
The Australia attack will want at least two completed sessions to have a crack at the Indian line-up. With India fighting back with four quick the latter half of the first session, the home pacers will be rubbing their hands.