India was in the driver’s seat in the first Test at Adelaide after the end of the fourth day, needing only six wickets more to complete a historical win, while Australia have the tough task of getting 219 runs on the board on a fifth day’s pitch.
The target of 323 always looked improbable and it was made even tougher as India’s bowlers stuck to a good line and length throughout the day. The Aussie unit lost two early wickets, before Shaun Marsh and Travis Head saw them through till stumps.
Earlier in the day, the overnight batters from India Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara got off to a sedate start, not giving away their wickets in the first session as they piled on 109 runs to extend India’s lead that had already reached 166 at the end of Day 3. Both players scored their fifties but the dismissal of Pujara triggered a collapse. The Aussie off-spinner Nathan Lyon first got Pujara and then Rohit Sharma in quick succession, as India lost 7 wickets for only 73 runs.
Lyon was the chief-wrecker-in chief, scalping 6 wickets in the innings, even as the Aussie pacers looked unmenacing and unthreatening. The battle between Pujara and Lyon was a highlight from the day, with the Saurashtra player keen to pad almost everything from the spinner, which frustrated Lyon even more. The Aussie ultimately had the last laugh though, as the extra bounce undid the Indian, but by then his 204-ball 71 had set the tone for the Indians.
Rishabh Pant, who has already taken affected eight dismissals in the match with the gloves, was in the mood to go after everything with the bat, hitting Lyon for three fours and a six in an over, before perishing.
The Aussie chase got off to a nervy start, as Aaron Finch was trapped LBW in front by Ishant Sharma, but a successful DRS review helped overturn the decision. However, he did not stay at the crease for long, getting dismissed on the last ball before tea break off Ashwin. Marcus Harris was caught behind playing a loose shot, while Usman Khawaja’s scratchy innings ended as he was looking to break the self-imposed shackled.
Unlike the Australian pacers, the Indian quicks looked dangerous throughout the day. They bowled good speeds (with deliveries even crossing the 140kmph-mark) and set up the dismissals cleverly. The dismissal of Peter Handscomb at the fag end of the day has tilted the game in India’s favour and they will be eager to go all out for the elusive win on Day 5.
Brief scores: India 250 and 307 (Cheteshwar Pujara 71, Ajinkya Rahane 70; Nathan Lyon 6-122) lead Australia 235 and 104/4 (Shaun Marsh 31*, Mohammed Shami 2-15) by 219 runs.