With one day remaining in the Sydney Test, Australia needs 433 runs to win with ten wickets in hand. It shouldn’t be possible. Shouldn’t.
But this Test – and indeed many Test matches lately – have been so unusual that it can’t be absolutely ruled out.
We’ve seen an exhilirating four days of batting at the SCG. Australia made 474 in their first innings, yet it wasn’t enough to avoid giving Indian captain Ganguly the option of enforcing the follow-on (which, as it happened, he elected not to do).
Alongside a dazzling innings by VVS Laxman, we’ve seen Sachin Tendulkar produce the highest score of his adult career, before going on to surpass 300 runs for the match. Quickfire centuries by Justin Langer and Simon Katich have been dwarfed by comparison, and lost in the media hype alongside the departing Steve Waugh’s tradesmanlike 40.
And in the midst of all this batting hyperactivity, we have had Anil Kumble taking 8/141 in the Australian first innings – the first eight-fer at the Sydney Cricket Ground since the 19th century! (Tom Richardson took 8/94 for England in March 1898 in the last Test of his career.)
A target of 433 in 90 overs on a fifth day wicket should be ludicrous, but we have seen so many powerful performances by this Australian battery over the past couple of years. The sentimentalists would have Steve Waugh playing a rearguard knock to win the game, or slightly more realistically, to draw it. It would be a shame, however, if Australia turned the match into a tame finish rather than go down in a kaleidoscopic heap.
If we’re looking for history on day five of this Sydney Test, we should keep an eye on Anil Kumble. No one else in this Indian side looks quite the match-winner in this situation, although nineteen year-old Irfan Pathan is clearly a player of the future. No one has taken thirteen wickets in a Test at the SCG. So far.
One passing point as we await the start of the final day of this quite breathtaking Test series. Has Sachin Tendulkar played his last Test innings on Australian soil? Amidst all the wildly excessive hysteria over Steve Waugh, is there another farewell that Sydney cricket fans are overlooking?