MOHALI: Sachin Tendulkar stands between Australia and a remarkable victory over India after another wildly fluctuating day of the first Test at Mohali.
The Australians appeared to toss away the advantage by sliding from 0-87 to 192 all out late on the fourth day.
But high class spells by Ben Hilfenhaus (3-22), Doug Bollinger (1-17) and Mitchell Johnson (0-11) reduced India to a very wobbly 4-55 in pursuit of 216 by close.
Apart from Tendulkar (10no), who made 98 in the first innings, and skipper MS Dhoni, the only other specialist batsman left is VVS Laxman, who looked severely restricted by a bout of back spasms while walking to the crease at No.10 in the first innings.
A day marred by several errant umpiring calls saved its worst for the start of the Indian chase when Gautam Gambhir was lbw for a duck to a Hilfenhaus delivery that took a chunky inside edge before thudding into the opener’s front pad.
Rahul Dravid (13) was then judged to have made the faintest of contact with an angled ball from Bollinger, and Virender Sehwag (17) glided a Hilfenhaus short ball to gully.
Another short-pitcher accounted for a fending Suresh Raina, and Tendulkar was accompanied edgily to stumps by the nightwatchman Zaheer Khan (five).
The Australian middle order earlier showed a crippling lack of intent while all 10 wickets were surrendered for a meagre 105.
Even with Michael Clarke’s extraordinary reprieve, the tourists were guilty of contributing to their strangulation at the hands of Harbhajan Singh (2-40) and Pragyan Ojha (2-59) after Ishant Sharma’s (3-34) cutting pre-lunch spell.
Zaheer Khan (3-43) ripped out the tail with a burst of reverse swing after tea to finish with eight victims for the Test.
Only Shane Watson (56, 59 balls) seemed to understand the value of intelligent attack.
Watson and Simon Katich (37) had begun swiftly before Ishant nabbed three wickets in 11 balls before lunch to change the complexion of the day.
An eager Watson was first out, dragging a short ball onto his stumps, before Ricky Ponting (four) miscued an attempted pull shot to backward square leg.
Clarke (four) appeared to be out next ball when he flicked uppishly to short midwicket but umpire Billy Bowden referred to the third umpire who called a no-ball.
Ishant has been cursed by overstepping in this Test, bowling 14 illegal deliveries in total, and Bowden’s instinct was correct, allowing Clarke to remain while the Indians stood bemused.
It was not to matter much, however, because in his next over Ishant produced a rearing delivery and Clarke flinched, offering the simplest of catches off glove and shoulder.
After lunch Katich pushed at Ojha and a fine edge was pouched by Dhoni, who applied a tight constriction on the Australian innings with shrewd field settings.
Mike Hussey departed to a delivery that pitched outside leg stump, only heightening the feeling of claustrophobia.
Marcus North’s exit, taken off pad and possibly bat, was another questionable dismissal, and the rest melted away.(AP)