Indian bowlers hit back to set up thrilling finale
THE fickle Melbourne weather and some tight India bowling have combined to set up an intriguing final day of the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
After Mitchell Johnson wrapped up the final two Indian wickets with only five runs added to the tourists' overnight score, Australia looked to attack in an attempt to set up a declaration and when David Warner smacked Umesh Yadav's first two balls for four, it looked like the perfect scenario for stand-in captain Steve Smith.
Quick runs were the order of the day for the skipper and Warner was batting to order.
At the end of the eighth over, the bullish opener was 37 off 23 balls before Dhoni threw the ball to off-spinner Ravi Ashwin.
Ashwin bowled with good control - something the tourists' pacemen failed to do yet again early on - and captured the scalp of Warner in the 15th over.
Chris Rogers took over the role as aggressor but following a rain break of just over half an hour shortly after lunch, lost Shane Watson (17) and Smith(14), caught well at leg slip by Ajinkya Rahane for his first failure of the series.
Rogers had a couple of lives on his way to a fourth successive half-century but was eventually out for 69 bowled by Ashwin.
Joe Burns (9) and Brad Haddin (14) both perished to expansive shots as the Aussies searched for more quick runs and with the Aussies six down with a lead of 271 when Haddin fell, the game was evenly poised again.
Shaun Marsh played nicely for his 62 not out, while Mitchell Johnson was caught at short midwicket, trying to pull Mohammed Shami for 15.
With a lead of 322 at stumps on day four, it will be interesting to see just how far Smith will go on on the final morning with a wearing pitch.
Australia only needs a draw to reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy but Smith has already shown, just like his mentor Michael Clarke, he is an attacking captain and he just might dangle the Indians a big enough carrot with a "friendly declaration".
If he does, or the Indians get the final few wickets cheaply this morning, then we could be in for an interesting final day.
- APN Sports Bureau