Sport Cricket Aussies architects of their own demise as India senses victory
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Aussies architects of their own demise as India senses victory

Aaron Finch cricket
Aaron Finch goes for 11 as Aussies chase 323 in Adelaide. Photos: Getty
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Stumps, Day 4. Australia’s target is 323 to win

India 250, 307

Australia 250, 4-104

Marsh – 31 Head – 11

History is within reach for India.

It requires six more wickets on the final day of the first Test in Adelaide to win. It would be India’s first Test victory on Australian soil since the summer of 1980-81 and only the 10th in its history.

It would also provide Virat Kohli’s team with a solid base camp from which to complete a first-ever Indian series victory here.

The signs are ominous that Australian cricket is facing its worst home summer since it was routed 3-1 in the Ashes series of 2010-11.

Australia’s batsmen have again been the agents of their own demise.

Peter Handscomb (14) was set a trap and he duly obliged by stumbling into it.

Kohli had brought Cheteshwar Pujara into a short mid-on position to accommodate Mohammed Shami’s short-pitched bowling and Handscomb’s poorly timed pull shot landed in Pujara’s hands as though the batsman had read Kohli’s script.

Australia’s top order is back in the shed and any fanciful notion of winning the First Test have gone with it.

Usman Khawaja’s weakness facing slow bowling was cruelly exposed again as he misjudged a Ravi Ashwin delivery and was out, caught in the deep for eight.

Khawaja laboured through his innings, facing 42 balls but never looking comfortable.

The cavalier nature of his dismissal is all the more galling for Australian fans who were looking for Khawaja to provide stability and leadership at the top of the order.

What they got was reckless indifference.

At the start of the run chase Aaron Finch sensationally survived an LBW decision when Ishant Sharma was no-balled by the third umpire on the second ball of the innings.

He battled his way to 11 before he ballooned a catch to Rishabh Pant off the bowling of Ashwin.

Finch didn’t challenge the decision though it appeared he hadn’t made contact with the ball.

Marcus Harris had again grafted his way into the 20s but lost concentration and slashed at a ball outside his off stump from Shami to be caught behind for 26.

Earlier in the day, Nathan Lyon produced another outstanding performance with the ball, taking 6-122 to be the best of the Australian bowlers.

It was the 12th time in his career that Lyon has claimed five wickets in an innings.

After lunch, India stepped up the tempo as Pant rattled off a quick-fire 28 that included six boundaries and a six as India’s lead ticked over 300.

He was eventually removed after he holed out at mid-wicket, caught by  Aaron Finch off the bowling of Lyon.

At the start of play, Pujara (71) did his best to bat India into a winning position before he fell to  Lyon.

A short time later Rohit Sharma popped up a catch to Handscomb at short leg to become the Aussie off-spinner’s third victim in the innings.

Having scored a first-innings century, Pujara bought up his 50 early on day four as India’s overall lead moved beyond 200 with seven wickets in hand.

Lyon thought he had made the breakthrough early on day four when he had Ajinkya Rahane given out caught at bat-pad.

Once again, Lyon was luckless with the third-umpire Decision Review System (DRS) overturning the umpire’s call, allowing Rahane to continue.

It was yet another moment of disappointment for Lyon, who on day three thought he had claimed the wicket of Pujara, only for the caught-behind decision to be overturned on review.

Lyon’s wicket-taking ability was the only shining light on a dim day for Australia.

This is a modestly talented team that has neither the patience or appetite to defy the expectation that defeat is stalking it.

Coach Justin Langer has called for “elite honesty” to be a trademark of this team.

If they’re true to that creed, there must be a few harsh truths exchanged as the Australians come to terms with just how much work still needs to be done for them to return to cricket’s top table.

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