Adelaide: India gained a strong grip over the first Test at the end of the fourth day, needing a further six wickets to go one up in the series, while Australia have 219 to get on a fifth day pitch.
Set a steep target of 323, Australia lost two wickets each to R Ashwin and Mohammed Shami, before a patient Shaun Marsh and Tavis Head saw them through till the end of the day.
Earlier, India lost five wickets for 25 runs after lunch to get bowled out for 307 in their second innings riding on half-centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara (71) and Ajinkya Rahane (70). India only added 47 runs for their last five wickets after resumption of play post lunch. Rishabh Pant (28) continued attacking Nathan Lyon (6-122) but didn’t last long as a wild swing found the fielder at deep cover. It started the Indian slide.
Ashwin (5) and Ajinkya Rahane (70) played uncharacteristic strokes, indicating that a declaration was forthcoming. But India never got to that point. Ashwin was caught pulling in the deep off Mitchell Starc (3-40) while Rahane was out caught reverse sweeping.
Mohammed Shami (0) was out caught first ball, wildly swinging at Lyon. Ishant Sharma (0) was bounced out as India were bowled out in just 11.5 overs after lunch. Their last seven wickets cost only 73 runs. Earlier, Pujara and Rahane took India to 260 for five at lunch.
Starting from overnight 151 for 3, India made good progress through the first session as Pujara and Rahane ground down the Australian attack with an 87-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Pujara started on a positive note with successive fours early in the day’s play. India’s main threat came from Nathan Lyon (3-92), who was using the rough on the pitch to trouble the batsmen.
Rahane survived an appeal for a catch in the 74th over via DRS when replays showed that the bat was nowhere near the ball. India’s 200 had came up in the 77th over while their 50-partnership came off 103 balls. Pujara reached his 20th Test half-century off 140 balls.
The duo continued to grind down the Australian bowling as their pacers’ body language started looking tiresome. Mitchell Starc (1-34) took the second new ball as soon as it became available but was wayward at best.
Australia finally got a breakthrough with Pujara out caught at short leg, off Lyon in the 88th over as the ball looped up. He walked off to a standing ovation from the Sunday crowd, having faced 450 balls in this match, the second-most for an Indian batsman in a Test on Australian soil after Sachin Tendulkar (525 at Sydney, 2004).
Rohit Sharma (1) came to the crease thereafter, but left quickly, caught at silly point smartly by Peter Handscomb as Lyon picked up his third wicket. Young Pant though decided to attack and took India past 250 before lunch. At the other end, Rahane had opened up to play pull strokes off the pacers against the new ball and reached his 16th Test half-century off 111 balls.