Australia had a near-perfect day in their endeavour to be in a position to push hard for victory on Saturday in Adelaide. Offspinner Nathan Lyon used the considerable bounce in the pitch to hasten the end of the Indian innings during an extended first session, securing a 73-run lead for his side, after which David Warner scored a second hundred in the Test – for the second time in 2014 – to help stretch that advantage to 363 at stumps.
Another overnight declaration is inevitable, which means India will have at least 98 overs to survive if they are to leave for Brisbane with the series still level. One day of batting might not seem improbable, but the last time India batted at least that many overs in the final innings of an away Test was at Lord’s in 2002, a match they still lost. Before that, it was in Colombo in 1997, and then in Adelaide in 1992. Such is the magnitude of the task ahead of Virat Kohli’s men.
That Australia had so much time to try to force a win in this most emotional of Tests, despite losing most of the second day to rain, was down to Lyon and Warner. Lyon claimed three of the last five wickets to become only the second Australian spinner to take a five-for at home against India, after Bob Simpson in 1968.
India had resumed on 5 for 369, and Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha had survived opening spells from Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson without much trouble. Michael Clarke made his bowling changes after the first half hour and wickets came quickly. Rohit had just stepped out to loft Lyon for a boundary over mid-on, but when he advanced again next ball he wasn’t to the pitch of it and chipped a return catch. India’s tail was exposed early.
Peter Siddle was unwell and expensive on the third day but his pace was up on Friday and he swiftly breached the debutant Karn Sharma’s defences. And had Siddle not dropped Mohammed Shami off Lyon on the deep midwicket boundary, Australia would have been batting sooner.
Though he had Saha for company, Shami slogged with abandon. His initial approach was questionable, but it brought valuable runs after Saha’s dismissal – caught at slip off bat and pad, though replays indicated the decision was also questionable. Two balls later Lyon had Ishant at bat-pad to complete his five.
India’s last wicket added 22 as Shami slogged between deep square leg and long-on. Siddle eventually found the toe end of his bat, and Shane Watson took a low catch at first slip to end the innings on 444.
Warner then got cracking. Not in the 45 minutes before lunch, when he was sussing how different batting conditions were from the first innings, but after the break, when he laid into India’s specialist spinner and part-timer. He lofted Karn Sharma and M Vijay repeatedly over their heads, slapped through cover when their lengths were short, and reverse swept too. He hit Australia’s first six of the Test – a towering blow over midwicket off Vijay.
Warner brought up his half-century off 63 balls, and then stopped by Phillip Hughes’ final score of 63 for the second time in the match. With his spinners proving ineffective – their ends had been swapped immediately after Karn dismissed Chris Rogers – Virat Kohli turned to Ishant Sharma but Watson glanced and flicked leg-side offerings to the boundary.
Varun Aaron had not been used until the 32nd over – presumably to keep fresh for any reverse swing – and in his second over he bowled Warner. The contest heated up instantly. Aaron and Kohli celebrated aggressively, but replays revealed a no-ball. Warner returned the cries of “come on,” more than once as he returned to the pitch, and a ball later there were confrontations involving several Indians and the batsmen. The umpires intervened and Kohli had to calm his own emotions to rein in his players.
Aaron revved it up, but a bouncer deflected off Watson for four leg byes, a leg-side wide went to the boundary, and the batsman flicked to the midwicket boundary off consecutive deliveries.
At tea, with Australia ahead by 212 and a host of aggressive batsmen to follow Warner and Watson, a declaration before stumps seemed likely. But Watson and Clarke fell in quick succession and Warner slowed down. His second 50 took 91 deliveries and Warner celebrated the landmark with his customary leap and a gaze up at the skies.
There was another flashpoint soon after. Steven Smith reacted to an absurd appeal, prompting the bowler Rohit to exclaim, “What? What?” Several exchanges were made between players and there was a long conversation between Kohli and umpire Ian Gould.
There was no aggression in India’s cricket, though, as Smith and Mitchell Marsh clobbered the bowling in the last half hour of the day. Marsh clubbed 40 off 26 balls and Smith was unbeaten on 52 at stumps. It is unlikely Australia will bat on Saturday.