India CricketAfter batting creditably for most part of their first innings, India handed over the advantage to Australia by poor batting show on fourth day morning. Once the Rohit Sharma-Wriddhiman Saha stand was broken at 399, the rest of the flame blew out for the addition of just 45 runs. Of these, Mohammad Shami contributed 34 off 24 balls in cavalier fashion. Shami’s unusually belligerent show avoided an earlier rout for India and delayed the start for Australia’s second innings. But such small consolation did not stop the Australian batting machine because, coming back again, they simply repeated their first innings’ performance by scoring briskly and putting on 290/4, when stumps were drawn. David Warner followed up his first-innings century with one more and Steven Smith remained not out on 52. Yet again, India’s bowlers failed to impress with the exception of debutant Karn Sharma. Now it will be a daunting task for Virat Kohli and his men to save the match on last day with Australia in front by a massive 363 runs. On the last day, India need to bat for 98 overs without getting out, if the match has to be saved.

India began the day with their overnight score of 363/5. For a while, it appeared that Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha would continue and drive India to safety. But the Aussie bowlers pushed hard for victory. They knew that once the remaining five wickets are taken cheaply, the batsmen can quickly build up a solid advantage to put India under anxiety on the last day. Nathan Lyons top-spinners did the trick for Australia as the bowler was able use the footmarks on the pitch and elicit considerable bounce. But Lyons came a little late as Clarke employed Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson in the early morning and Sharma and Saha could easily deal with the pace. It was only after about thirty minutes that Clarke brought spin. Rohit Sharma had scored a boundary off Lyon, when the bowler sent down a slightly varying delivery that had the extra bounce. Sharma fell in the trap and scooped a caught-and-bowled chance that Lyon held with glee. Clarke had Peter Siddle bowling from the other end despite being ineffective on the third day. But Siddle he found his rhythm and beat Karn Sharma all ends up to scatter his stumps. Mohammad Shami would also have gone early if Siddle had not dropped him at the boundary off Lyon. Shami had nothing to lose as he slogged with gay abandon, while Saha was content to keep his head down at the other end. Saha was the first to depart to a bat-and-pad chance that looked questionable. But after several replays, Saha’s dismissal was confirmed. It was clear that India’s tail-enders didn’t apply themselves to the task and frittered away their chances. Lyon collected his fifth wicket of the innings after extracting another bat-and-pad catch from Ishant Sharma. After slogging some more, Shami finally holed out to Siddle and India innings folded at 444. Australia, thus secured a vital 73-run lead on the first innings and the match hinged on Australian batsmen’s second innings performance.

David Warner can wreak havoc on a battery of bowlers on his day. He began where he had left off in the first innings after being quiet in the 45 minutes before lunch. But soon after lunch, he began hitting the bowlers with usual and unusual strokes. His sole purpose was fattening Australia’s lead. Taking turns, he lofted Karn Sharma and M Vijay repeatedly over their heads and banged them through cover when they bowled the short stuff. In addition, Warner also used the reverse sweep to good effect and hit Australia’s first six of the Test, when he lifted Murali Vijay high over midwicket. When he reached 63, he stopped for a while to pay his homage to Phillip Hughes, whose final score was 63 as well. This was the second time in the match that Warner was doing so. Despite Kohli making frequent bowling changes, he didn’t know how to stop the rampaging Warner. But Karn Sharma got a wicket, when he dismissed Chris Rogers. By and large, Indian bowlers failed to create any impact on the determined Australians in general and David Warner in particular. Since India cannot win the first test, any other result will ensure Warner emerging as the player of this match.

By tea, Australians were 212 runs in front but despite Watson and Clarke falling, Warner went on with his job albeit a tad slowly. He finally reached his second hundred in the match and when he departed at 102, he had taken 166 balls. But more importantly, with Steven Smith and Mitchell Marsh taking the onus of further build up, Australia ended the day at 290/5, with a 363-run lead over India.

It is unlikely that the Aussies will bat tomorrow and a target of 364 will be too stiff for India on the last day. But Australia will not leave any stone unturned in pressurizing India through 98 overs that India must endure on Saturday. 98 overs would give Australia enough time to force a win in this highly emotional test match.