India captain Harmanpreet Kaur’s golden arm has her nation well placed to notch a first-ever win over Australia at stumps on day three of the one-off Test at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
Australia clawed their way to 5-233 on Saturday, a precarious 46-run lead with a day to play in the first Test between the two nations in India since 1984.
The impressive Tahlia McGrath (73) anchored Australia’s second-innings fightback, sharing in strong partnerships of 84, with Ellyse Perry (45), and 66 with captain Alyssa Healy (32) before Harmanpreet (2-23) struck twice in the third session.
Perry looked in fine touch before tickling offspinner Snesh Rana down legside to wicketkeeper Yastika Bhatia shortly before tea.
New vice-captain McGrath, who crushed 50 off 56 balls in Australia’s first-innings 219, completed twin half-centuries with a more measured knock in the second dig.
McGrath survived two lbw decisions – given out twice, both overturned on review – the second from Harmanpreet’s first delivery of the match.
Three balls later, she was gone, inside-edging the demon bowler onto her stumps.
Healy, in her first match as permanent skipper, reined in her natural attacking instincts but none of her spunk.
The rival captains clashed briefly when Healy charged down to hit the ball back to Harmanpreet, who aggressively fired it back in the direction of the Aussie skipper.
Healy, in trying to protect herself, used her bat to deflect the throw and the ball scooted to the boundary.
Harmanpreet argued for obstructing the field but the umpires instead awarded Healy with a four.
India had the last laugh though, with Healy out lbw on the next ball after missing an attempted sweep.
Annabel Sutherland (12no) survived two confident lbw shouts before scoring – trapped plumb but surviving when India opted not to review, before later overturning an out decision – and will resume on day four alongside Ash Gardner (seven).
Before McGrath and Perry joined forces, Australia lost both their openers in needless fashion.
A napping Beth Mooney (37) showed a complete lack of awareness, wandering from her crease and being run out by debutant Richa Ghosh at silly point, before Phoebe Litchfield (18) was bowled attempting to reverse-sweep Rana.
Earlier in the day the tourists finally broke a frustrating 122-run partnership – India’s highest ever for the eighth wicket – between Deepti Sharma (78) and Pooja Vastrakar (47) as the hosts posted 406, their highest total against Australia.
India have never beaten Australia in a women’s Test.