India were lurching toward defeat and a 4-0 series humiliation against Australia after another batting collapse in the fourth Test in Adelaide yesterday.
The beleaguered tourists, chasing a record 500 runs for an unlikely win, took the Test into a fifth day for the first time in their ill-fated tour, but only after losing their top six batsmen, including Sachin Tendulkar.
V.V.S. Laxman and first innings century-maker Virat Kohli stalled Australia’s charge for almost 90 minutes before Laxman fell to a poor shot two overs from stumps.
Laxman, struggling for form in Australia, played spinner Nathan Lyon off the back foot straight to short mid-wicket for 35, leaving nightwatchman Ishant Sharma surrounded by nine close infielders.
However, in the day’s penultimate over, Kohli was run out on a chancy single by a brilliant side-on throw by Ben Hilfenhaus for 22 to leave the tourists in tatters.
Australia will expect to mop up India’s tail today with only the forecast storms likely to save the visitors from another embarrassing capitulation.
At the close on the fourth day, India were 166 for six, trailing by 333 runs with Sharma on two and Wriddhiman Saha yet to score. Lyon ended the day with three for 57 off 19 overs.
“We are extremely disappointed, but there is no need for the word ‘embarrassment,’” India spinner Ravi Ashwin said. “It’s a sport and at the end of the day we have all competed hard at the ground, it’s not like we’ve chucked it away. We’ve given it everything we had. Yes, we’ve come up short on occasions. We have not seized the initiatives and we’ve not enough reserves in the bank to do it.”
The tourists were left with 146 overs to reach their improbable target after Australia declared their second innings at 167 for five shortly after lunch.
However, they were soon in trouble, losing Gautam Gambhir for 13 in the fifth over, caught behind off Ryan Harris.
Stand-in skipper Virender -Sehwag blasted 12 fours in a rollicking 62 off 53 balls before he skied a full toss from spinner Lyon only to Ricky Ponting in the covers.
Rahul Dravid lasted 71 balls before he edged to Mike Hussey in the gully off Harris for 25 to complete a poor series in which he was bowled six times and scored just 194 runs at 24.25.
Tendulkar again missed out on his elusive 100th international hundred when he was caught close to the wicket by Ed Cowan off Lyon for 13.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to get him [Tendulkar] out,” Lyon said. “Having said that, the job’s not done, we’ve got another four wickets to get and we’ll have to turn up tomorrow and be on our game and hopefully get these four wickets.”
Tendulkar’s latest failure stretched Test cricket’s all-time leading run scorer’s barren run without a century to 25 Test and one-day innings since his last hundred (111) in the World Cup in March last year.
The highest winning chase at the Adelaide Oval is Australia’s 315 against England in 1902, while India’s highest-ever run hunt was 406 against the West Indies in Trinidad in 1976.
Earlier, former captain Ponting was 60 not out when Michael Clarke declared Australia’s innings for a second time in the match after calling a halt in the first innings at 604 for seven.
Ponting, who top-scored with 210 in the first innings, finished the series with 544 runs at 108.80 to dispel doubts over his place in the Australian side ahead of the tour to the West Indies in March-April.
Australia set out on the fourth day with a 382-run lead.
Clarke, caught behind off Umesh Yadav for 37, completed the series with 626 runs at 125.20 after his unbeaten 329 in Sydney and 210 in the first innings of the Adelaide Test.
Hussey was the other Australian wicket to fall, LBW for 15 to Ishant Sharma nearing lunch.