BANGALORE: Australian captain Ricky Ponting defied India’s bowlers with a spirited half-century as his team fought a grim battle for survival in the final Test on Tuesday.
After Sachin Tendulkar had made 214 to give India a slender 17-run lead, the Aussies slumped to 131/5 in their second innings before recovering to post 202/7 by stumps on the fourth day.
Ponting made 72, his second half-century of the match, when seamer Zaheer Khan trapped him leg-before towards the end of the day’s play to put India on top.
Australia, seeking a series-levelling win after losing the first Test in Mohali by one wicket, start the final day’s play 185 runs ahead with three wickets in hand.
India’s spin twins, Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha, wrecked Australia’s top-order on a wearing wicket at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore that assisted turn.
Openers Shane Watson and Simon Katich put on 58, before both fell in the space of four deliveries without a run being added.
Watson was trapped leg-before by left-arm spinner Ojha, while Katich edged a catch to wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in off-spinner Harbhajan’s next over.
Seven runs later, Michael Clarke was stumped by Dhoni off Ojha to reduce the tourists to 65/3, barely 48 runs ahead.
Michael Hussey put on 61 for the fourth wicket with Ponting, before he was leg-before to Ojha for 20 and first-innings centurion Marcus North was bowled by Harbhajan for three.
Tim Paine (23) added 50 with Ponting and when play ended Mitchell Johnson was on seven and Nathan Hauritz was on eight.
Earlier, India took their overnight score of 435/5 to 495 before they were all out at the stroke of lunch in reply to Australia’s 478.
Tendulkar’s dismissal at 486/5 triggered a lower order collapse in which the last five Indian wickets fell for nine runs.
Tendulkar, who was on 191 overnight, reached his double century 25 minutes after the start with a quick single off Ben Hilfenhaus.
It was the world batting record holder’s sixth double-century and his second in four Tests, having made 203 against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club in Colombo in July.
The 37-year-old, who is in his 21st year in international cricket, has already notched up six three-figure knocks this year, besides making 98 in the previous Test in Mohali.
Tendulkar was dismissed in the second over after resumption of play when he edged an intended cut off fast bowler Peter George onto his stumps, giving the tall South Australian a treasured first Test wicket.
The Indian’s vigil at the crease lasted nearly nine hours, in which he hit 22 boundaries and two sixes.
Hauritz claimed the last two wickets, including Dhoni for 30, to finish with two for 153 from 39.5 overs.
Left-arm fast bowler Johnson was the most successful bowler with 3-105, while George took two wickets.(AFP)