India have upper hand as Australia struggle

India's fast bowler Mohammed Shami celebrating dismissing Australia's opener Marcus Harris on day four of the first cricket Test at the Adelaide Oval. The hosts are 219 runs short of victory with six wickets left.
India's fast bowler Mohammed Shami celebrating dismissing Australia's opener Marcus Harris on day four of the first cricket Test at the Adelaide Oval. The hosts are 219 runs short of victory with six wickets left.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ADELAIDE • Australia were staring at defeat on day four of the series-opening cricket Test yesterday, losing four wickets in their record run chase after being set a target of 323 to win by India.

Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (2-44) and paceman Mohammed Shami (2-15) combined to tear through Australia's top order and bring India within six wickets of victory ahead of the fifth and final day at the Adelaide Oval today.

Shaun Marsh (31 not out) and Travis Head (11 not out) were left clinging to their wickets after nudging the home team to 104 for four at stumps, after a nerve-jangling final hour.

Justin Langer's side were 219 runs short of their victory target of 323 and will need to defy history to chase down the total.

The highest successful run chase at Adelaide Oval was in 1902, when the hosts scored 315 for six to beat England and, despite the odds, spinner Nathan Lyon, who took 6-122 to help restrict India to 307 in their second innings, still felt they "could win this".

"We still believe," he said. "We just need to go out there and enjoy ourselves and really compete hard and fight our backsides off."

Since World War II, no team has bettered West Indies' successful fourth-innings chase of 239-5, which defeated Australia by five wickets in 1982 at the same venue.

While India have never won a series-opening Test in Australia, Ashwin and Shami have set up the platform to break new ground, although assistant coach Sanjay Bangar admitted he was disappointed that his team's tailenders could not add more runs.

The visitors lost their last four wickets for just four runs in a panicky bout of tailend slogging with two batsmen bowled out for zero, and Bangar told reporters it "was an area where we are continuously looking to improve".

He said: "We were expecting at least 25 runs from them (the tail). We are hoping the tailenders, particularly 9-10-11, show a bit more application (today) than they did."

However, Bangar was full of praise for vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who smashed 70, while first innings century-maker Cheteshwar Pujara had a 71.

"They are two of our best Test players and, whenever they have done well, they have put us in a good position," he added.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

AUSTRALIA V INDIA

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2018, with the headline 'India have upper hand as Australia struggle'. Print Edition | Subscribe