Crowd abuse delays play; India 98-2 chasing 407 to win

After a day when play was delayed and at least five spectators ejected following complaints by visiting players of crowd abuse, the third cricket test was in the balance with India needing a further 309 runs and Australia needing eight wickets to take a series lead.

Australia made two vital breakthroughs just before stumps Sunday to have India 98-2 chasing 407 for victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Pat Cummins dismissed Rohit Sharma shortly before the close on day four to give Australia a strong advantage going into the final day on Monday against a short-handed Indian lineup.

The fourth day was largely overshadowed by an eight-minute stoppage shortly before the end of Australia's second innings.

India fast bowler Mohammed Siraj had been fielding near the fine leg boundary before he complained to the umpires and pointed to a section of the crowd.

Umpires Paul Reiffel and Paul Wilson halted the game while police and security questioned people in the crowd. Police later escorted at least five men away from their seats. They were questioned by stadium authorities and police and ejected from the ground.

Police and Cricket Australia are continuing investigations.

Siraj had earlier complained about comments, allegedly racist, from the crowd after play on Saturday and calling for the International Cricket Council to investigate.

“It’s upsetting and it’s disappointing,” Australia coach Justin Langer said of the crowd abuse. “It’s one of my greatest pet hates in life, that people can think they can come to a sporting event, pay their money and think they can abuse or say whatever they like — I’ve hated it as a player. I hate as a coach.”

Langer said the series had been played in good spirit between the teams and "it’s a shame to see it getting marred by incidents like we’re hearing about today and last night.”

Cricket Australia issued a statement saying it thanked the Indian team “for their vigilance in reporting today's incident.”

“As series hosts, we unreservedly apologize to our friends in the Indian cricket team and assure them we will prosecute the matter to its fullest extent,” Sean Carroll, Cricket Australia’s head of integrity and security, said. “It is most regrettable that an otherwise excellent test match contested in tremendous spirit by two friendly rivals has been tarnished by the actions of a small number of spectators over the past two days."

Stadium management said CCTV footage was being used to help the investigation.

The crowd abuse soured a largely successful day for the host’s where half centuries to Marnus Labuschagne (73), Steve Smith (81) and a maiden half-century from Cameron Green (84) put the Australians into a dominant position when it declared at 312-6 at tea.

India openers Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma made good progress by reaching 71 in the 23rd over before Josh Hazlewood had Gill caught behind by Paine for 31.

Pat Cummins got the wicket his threatening bowling deserved when he teased danger man Rohit Sharma into a pull shot and had him caught by Mitchell Starc on the boundary for 52.

At stumps, Cheteshwar Pujara was 9 not out and India captain Ajinkya Rahane was on 4 as India’s senior batsmen dug in as they will need to again on day five.

Earlier, rookie allrounder Green faced 132 balls and hit eight boundaries and four sixes — including back-to-back drives over the long-on boundary against Siraj before play was halted — before he was caught behind off Jasprit Bumrah, prompting the declaration during the tea interval.

He shared an entertaining 104-run partnership with captain Tim Paine, who finished 39 not out.

After resuming at 103-2 on Sunday, Labuschagne survived a dropped catch by Hanuma Vihari off the second ball of the day to reach his 10th test half-century, which came as part of a second successive century partnership with Smith.

Labuschagne’s fortune eventually ran out when Navdeep Saini had the batsman caught behind off a leg glance.

Matt Wade (4) faced 11 balls before he edged behind to substitute wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha off Saini (2-54), who is making his test debut.

Saha is playing for Pant, who like spinning allrounder Ravi Jadeja, did not take the field Sunday after both sustained injuries while batting on day three.

Smith’s 30th test 50 was one of his most patient, coming off 134 balls with five boundaries, before he was trapped lbw by Ravichandran Ashwin (2-95).

The four-match Border-Gavaskar trophy series is level at 1-1. The holder India is hoping to secure it with a victory in Sydney and Australia needing to win the series to reclaim it.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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