Adelaide: India needs six wickets to end a 15-year drought at the Adelaide Oval, with Australia’s daunting chase in ruins at stumps on day four in the first cricket Test.
Set 323 runs to win, Australia was 104 for 4 at the close on Sunday with Shaun Marsh unbeaten on 31 and Travis Head 11.
Star Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been the main threat, targeting footmarks to trouble Australia’s inexperienced batting order. Ashwin and quick Mohammad Shami have two wickets apiece.
Australia’s faint hopes seemingly rest with the under-pressure Marsh, who last month scored a Sheffield Shield century at the Adelaide Oval to lead Western Australia’s successful chase of 313 runs.
Australia’s chase began in shaky fashion. Finch, who made a duck in the first innings, had a reprieve when trapped leg-before-wicket on the second ball of the innings, only for the review to show paceman Ishant Sharma had overstepped the crease for a no-ball.
Finch then fell on the last ball before tea off Ashwin for 11.
An aggressive Marcus Harris played a loose cut stroke, edging a catch behind off Shami. Harris made 26 in both innings in his Test debut.
Australia was teetering at 60-3 when Ashwin claimed the prized target of Usman Khawaja, who threw his wicket away in holing out to a forward-diving Rohit Sharma for 8.
Peter Handscomb (14) combined with Marsh to temporarily blunt India before he lost patience, spooning a catch to midwicket off Shami.
Spinner Nathan Lyon said the team would find inspiration from its recent drawn test match against Pakistan in Dubai. Australia batted out 139.5 overs to finish on 362-8.
“We spoke about Dubai. We still believe we can win this,” Lyon told reporters. “I think the pitch has quickened up. The wicket is good enough for us to have the belief to score these runs.”
India suffered a scare in the final hour when paceman Jasprit Bumrah left the ground after falling awkwardly in the field. He received treatment on his right shoulder and returned to bowl.
Australia’s batting effort soured its earlier comeback after India collapsed in its second innings, losing seven wickets for 73 runs.
The visitors came out swinging after lunch, but the aggressive approach backfired, with four wickets falling for only four runs. Half-century maker Ajinkya Rahane added just 13 in the second session, falling for 70.
Lyon claimed six for 122 from 42 overs and paceman Mitchell Starc shrugged off a disappointing first session to finish with three wickets.
Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara shared an 87-run fourth-wicket partnership, the highest of the match. Pujara made 71 off 204 balls, following on in fine style from his first innings century.
India’s assistant coach Sanjay Bangar also wanted the tailend batsmen to show a bit more application than what they did in the second innings with Ashwin (5), Ishant (0), Shami (0) and Bumrah (0) only managing to add five runs to the total as India were all out for 307.
“We were expecting at least 25 [more] runs from there. That is an area where we are continuously looking to improve. And we are hoping that the lower order, especially the tail-enders at 9, 10, 11 show a bit more application than what they did today,” Bangar told reporters after the end of the day’s play.
But the coach praised Cheteshwar Pujara (71) and Ajinkya Rahane (70), lauding the former for his first innings effort too.
“Tremendous application especially after where we were at the end of the first session [on the first day] where we lost four wickets. But after that a lot of resistance and resilience was shown by Pujara,” he said.
“[Pujara] has himself said that it was one of his best knocks, and on back of that he’s repeated that and made a big contribution in the second innings as well. So he’s managed to surpass obstacles, and got those big scores that every batsman wants.”
India has not won a Test in Adelaide since 2003, when they beat a Steve Waugh-led Australia by four wickets.