Mohammed Siraj did not return home in November when his father died, instead deciding to stay in Australia and try to make his father’s dream come true.
Within weeks, the 26-year-old was bred from a backup bowler – chosen for the tour as cover after a few injuries to veteran pacemen – to lead the attacking India exhausted from injuries in the match series litmus test at the Gabba in Brisbane.
He captured his first five-wicket tack on Monday, helping sack Australia for a late 294 on the penultimate day of the fourth and final test, leaving India with a 328 goal to win.
“If he was alive he would have been so happy,” Siraj said. “But I had his blessing and that’s why I took five wickets today. I am speechless today about this performance.
Siraj said he recalled a conversation with his mother, which encouraged him to stay on tour in Australia and make his father proud.
“I spoke with my people at home. I felt strong after talking to my family, talking to my mom, and I was also strong mentally about it. My goal was to make my father’s wish for me come true. Thank goodness that was accomplished today. Let’s see what will happen tomorrow. “
The most successful Gabba chase came in 1951, when Australia finished 236-7 against the West Indies. The Australians haven’t lost at Gabba since 1988, but no one counts India.
And that’s because of the way Siraj and the other players – recruited to fill in the gaps left by the lack of regular starters – have taken on the game that gives tourists so much confidence.
The openers faced 1.5 overs before the rain stopped playing and India finished four unbeaten – a scoring stroke from Rohit Sharma.
Stumps was called in shortly after 5 p.m. local time (0700 GMT), giving India three sessions, weather permitting, to try to secure an additional 324 races.
Siraj put in two catches before picking up Steve Smith’s key wicket for 55 in the middle session.
Australia were 243-7 at tea on day four – a downpour forcing an early break – with an overall lead of 276 and a seemingly imminent declaration.
But the hosts continued to beat when play resumed in gloomy conditions in the evening session, adding 51 more races for three wickets.
Pat Cummins finished undefeated on the 28th.
Nathan Lyon, in his 100th test, took Australia’s lead past 300 when he hung a six from Siraj, but was struck out shortly after for 13, giving Thakur his fourth wicket of the innings and the seventh of the match. Thakur took the hook from Siraj’s bowling alley to fire last man Josh Hazlewood (9).
Siraj, leading India’s attack on his third test only in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin due to injury, came back 5-73 for his career best numbers.
Smith said the game was well balanced and typical of a series that “fluctuated” throughout.
Australia won the first test by eight wickets in Adelaide, India responded with an eight wicket victory in Melbourne – where Siraj made his debut – then got the emotional best for a draw in the third test at Sydney, where tourists have passed the course. last four sessions to save a draw.
“The game is in a good place for us,” said Smith. “The wicket started playing a few rounds today, a few balls have sprung up, so tomorrow will be [about] let the natural variation of a day five wicket do its work, and we hope we can keep our chances.
Smith said there was a lot more going on with the wicket at Gabba and that it was different from Sydney Cricket Ground, where India beat 130 overs to save the game.
Australia started Monday 21 undefeated and beat 89-0 before dropping four wickets in six overs to slip to 123-4.
Smith then combined with Cameron Green to bring the total to 196 before a sharply rising bullet from Siraj hit him on the glove and was deflected to Ajinkya Rahane in the ravine.
Smith, who got a reprieve on 42 when he moved to Washington Sundar and Siraj left a chance in the depths, revised the decision, believing his hand wasn’t on the bat at the time. But reruns clearly confirmed the dismissal – a big one for Siraj.
Green (37) was given a reprieve when Siraj pulled off a tight comeback, but his 90-ball innings came to an end when he edged Thakur to Rohit Sharma on the second slip to take Australia to 227-6.
Australian captain Tim Paine scored a quick 27 before trying to hook Thakur and be caught behind.
Thakur got the ball rolling on Day 4 for India when Marcus Harris (38) gloved a catch to wicket keeper Rishabh Pant in the 25th.
Sundar, on his test debut, trapped David Warner (48) in the next before Siraj was among the wickets by knocking out Marnus Labuschagne (25) and Matthew Wade (0) in the same goal to keep India in contention.
While the series is level 1-1, India only needs a draw to ensure they retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.