Aus at 104/4; India closes in on win on day four

Aus at 104/4; India closes in on win on day four

Ajinkya Rahane (R) runs between the wickets as Australia's Nathan Lyon (L) looks on during day four of the first Test cricket match at the Adelaide Oval on December 9, 2018. (AFP Photo)

A misty, wet Saturday gave way to a sun-kissed Sunday and cricket was resplendent as India closed in on its first win in a Test in nine attempts spread over eight years on the Australian soil.

Having set Australia a daunting target of 323, India reduced the hosts to 104/4 in 49 overs to give themselves a realistic chance of taking a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Their more accomplished batsman in the present set-up Shaun Marsh (31 n.o.) and top-scorer in the first innings Travis Head (11 n.o.) were holding the fort for Australia, who trail India by 219 runs now, at the close on the fourth day of the opening Test here at the Adelaide Oval on a sparsely-attended day.

R Ashwin (2/44) and Mohammad Shami (2/15) had claimed two each with the off-spinner expected to play a bigger role on Monday's final day. While there are still six wickets to be taken, the visitors are entitled to feel they are in firm control of the match given Australia’s first-innings show on a relatively better pitch.

In the morning, Cheteshwar Pujara (71, 204b, 9x4) and Ajinkya Rahane (57 batting, 127b, 6x4) forged an 87-run stand for the fourth wicket to settle the nerves in the visiting change room. Though India had 166-run lead coming into the fourth day, they were still some distance away from being safe and given how their innings unfolded following Pujara’s dismissal, the partnership proved to be a critical one.

While Pujara continued from where he had left on the third evening, Rahane made quick amends to his first-innings blunder. He cut out all the frills but never shied away from punishing the poor balls. The two looked in little discomfort against both pace and spin and runs flowed at a healthy rate. They exhibited great skill and patience to see off the tricky beginning and began to pick boundaries to deflate the home attack. There was reward for their shots as well as the outfield appeared to have become a bit faster compared to first three days. It was also strange to see Australia not bring Nathan Lyon (6/122) early on in the day with the Indian batsmen easily negotiating the pacers.

Lyon proved his worth eventually. Having bowled probing spells all morning, the off-spinner was finally rewarded when he managed to remove a seemingly impregnable Pujara and an unsure Rohit Sharma in the space of 14 deliveries. The two wickets opened the floodgates soon as India lost their last six wickets for the addition of just 59 runs and astonishingly the last four wickets could manage no more than four runs with Ashwin, Rahane and Shami all falling at 303.        

Brief scores: India: 250 all out and 307 all out in 106.5 overs (KL Rahul 44, Cheteshwar Pujara 71, Ajinkya Rahane 70, Virat Kohli 34; Nathan Lyon 6-122) vs Australia: 235 and 1014/4 (R Ashwin 2-44, Mohammad Shami 2-15).