India are charging towards a memorable series-levelling victory at the MCG with the tourists ripping through a brittle Australian top order in the second Test.
Australia ended day three of the Boxing Day Test slumped at 133-6, leading by two runs with four wickets in hand.
Promising allrounder Cameron Green (17 not out) and Pat Cummins (15 no) will be responsible for the difficult rescue mission when play resumes on Tuesday.
Little went right for Australia in a disastrous final session, losing four for 68, and captain Tim Paine possibly on the wrong end of a controversial DRS decision.
India reviewed the field umpire’s not-out call after Paine tried cutting spinner Ravindra Jadeja.
Replays showed nothing on Hotspot, but a slight spike on snicko when the ball moved past Paine’s bat was enough for third umpire Paul Wilson to give the No 7 out.
India lost 49-5 in the first session, claiming a 131-run first-innings lead, which could have been more if not for the calamitous run-out of captain Ajinkya Rahane for a courageous 112.
While India were frustrated to not post more than 326, a lower-order collapse has not cost them.
All five of India’s bowlers took wickets, highlighted by quick Jasprit Bumrah claiming the prized scalp of Steve Smith to continue the most concerning form slump of the Australian star’s career.
The world’s No 1 ranked Test batsman fell for eight, with the ball clipping the top of Smith’s leg-stump in a bizarre dismissal.
The 31-year-old is enduring the worst series of his career with an average of 3.3 two games into the four-Test contest.
Smith starred with two centuries in the ODI series in November but carried concerns over a back injury into the first Test and has looked a shadow of his former self since.
But the batting concerns do not end with Smith, as Australia have not posted a score of more than 195 in four innings this series.
Joe Burns’s second failure of the match has placed the opener’s international career in severe jeopardy.
The Queenslander followed up his first-innings duck with a scratchy four, being caught behind off Indian quick Umesh Yadav.
Inexplicably, Burns opted to challenge the umpire’s call, burning one of Australia’s reviews after replays showed a clear hot-spot on his bat.
No 5 Travis Head (17) was caught at second slip after slashing at a wide delivery, with the South Australian again failing to capitalise on a promising start.
Makeshift opener Matthew Wade was the only Australian batsmen to show grit, facing 137 balls – the sixth most deliveries he has faced in Test cricket – to top-score with 40.
Making India’s performance more remarkable is how quickly they have bounced back after their record low score of 36 at Adelaide Oval.
India made four changes, including Virat Kohli’s forced omission, but have been led in style by Rahane.
The tourists’ only concern is a leg injury to Yadav, who hobbled off the field halfway through his fourth over.
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