Play stopped Sunday while umpires and local police responded to complaints by India’s cricketers of crowd abuse on day four of the third test against Australia.
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 for eight minutes, with India’s fielders and the Australian batsmen huddled in the middle of the Sydney Cricket Ground, while police and security questioned people in the crowd. Police later escorted at least five men away from their seats.
Australia declared their innings shortly after play resumed when allrounder Cameron Green was dismissed for 84 off the last ball before the tea interval. The hosts set India a target of 407 to win with four sessions remaining and by stumps the tourists were 98-2, needing 307 runs to win.
Siraj had earlier complained about comments, allegedly racist, from the crowd after play on Saturday, and Cricket Australia and the International Cricket Council were already investigating that episode.
“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 in a statement outlining the zero tolerance policy toward racism.
“Cricket Australia condemns in the strongest terms possible all discriminatory behavior. Once those responsible are identified, CA will take the strongest measures possible under our anti-harassment code … including lengthy bans, further sanctions and referral to New South Wales Police.”
Stadium management said CCTV footage was being used to help the investigation.
“We are taking this extremely seriously. If those involved are identified, they will be banned,” Venues New South Wales chief executive Kerrie Mather said.
The complaints overshadowed Australia’s progress in its second innings where half centuries to Marnus Labuschagne (73), Steve Smith (81) and a maiden half-century from Green put the Australians into a dominant position at the SCG when it declared at 312-6 at tea.
Needing an unlikely 407 runs to win or to bat for four sessions to save the match, India openers Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma made good progress by reaching 71 in the 23rd over before Josh Hazlewood had Gill caught behind for 31.
Pat Cummins got the wicket his threatening bowling deserved when he teased Rohit Sharma into a pull shot and had him caught by Mitchell Starc on the boundary for 52.
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 a 104-run partnership with captain Tim Paine, who finished 39 not out.
Green then showed good poise and patience of his own to bring up his maiden half-century off 116 balls in this third test, before scoring another 34 runs off 15 balls as the hosts chased quick runs ahead of its declaration.
After resuming at 103-2 on Sunday, Labuschagne and Smith made a watchful start as India’s attack bowled a tight line to limit Australia’s scoring opportunities.
Labuschagne should have been out on the second ball for 47 but Hanuma Vihari dropped a regulation chance at square leg off Jasprit Bumrah’s bowling.
The 26-year-old reached his 50, off 82 balls with six boundaries, a few overs later with a single off Bumrah. It was Labuschagne’s 10th half-century in just his 17th test and 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 has not taken the field after sustaining an elbow injury from a rising ball from paceman Pat Cummins while batting on day three.
Spinning allrounder Jadeja is another injury concern after he was struck on the thumb by a Mitchell Starc delivery on Saturday. While Jadeja managed to bat on and make 28 not out, after taking 4 wickets in the first innings, he did not return to the field on the fourth day.
Smith’s 30th test 50 was one of his most patient, coming off 134 balls with five boundaries.
After lunch Smith had much more attacking intent, blazing several boundaries on his way to 81 before being trapped lbw on review 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.
(With inputs from AP)