Australia were on the brink of a series sweep after reducing India to 166 for six in their pursuit of 500 runs for an unlikely victory at the close of play on the fourth day of the fourth Test on Friday.
The hosts declared at 167-5 shortly after lunch on another sweltering day at the Adelaide Oval which, added to their 604-7 declared, put them 499 runs ahead of India’s first attempt of 272.
Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Virat Kohli all crumbled once again before the Australian attack to leave the tourists 333 runs behind with a full day remaining.
Ishant Sharma, who came in as a nightwatchman and had scored two, and Wriddhiman Saha, who had yet to score, will resume on the final day of the match.
Nothing the Indians have done so far in the series had suggested they can overhaul their target, especially as the Test record for a successful fourth innings run chase is the 418 West Indies scored against Australia in Antigua in 2003.
That impression was compounded when a brilliant diving catch from Brad Haddin off the bowling of Ryan Harris triggered Gautam Gambhir’s departure for three with just 14 runs on the scoreboard.
Sehwag, replacing the banned Mahendra Singh Dhoni as skipper for this test, made deeper inroads into the target with some fine aggressive stroke-making in his 53-ball 62.
The 33-year-old’s contribution was undermined, however, by the manner of his dismissal, playing a schoolboy shot at a Nathan Lyon full toss and holing out to Ricky Ponting at cover.
That brought Tendulkar to the wicket for his 25th attempt to secure his 100th international century in a partnership of the two most prolific test batsmen of all time with Dravid.
Dravid lasted until after tea before departing for 25 when he drove at a Harris delivery and got a thick edge to Mike Hussey at gully – at least avoiding the ignominy of having been bowled for the seventh time in eight innings.
Tendulkar had made 13 off 34 balls when what is likely to be his last test innings in Australia came to an end when he defended a Lyon delivery, which caught his glove and pad and landed in Ed Cowan’s hands at short leg.
Laxman, who has had a miserable series, had already been dropped by Ponting on 25 when he hit a Lyon delivery straight to Shaun Marsh at midwicket to end what could be his last Test innings for 35.
Kohli, who had scored his first test century on Thursday, fell for 22, two overs from the end of the day when a direct hit from Ben Hilfenhaus ran him out.
Ponting had been at the crease on 60 not out with Brad Haddin (11 not out) when Australia captain Michael Clarke decided the lead was big enough and waved the batsmen in just three overs after lunch.
Resuming in the morning on 50-3 after losing their top order on Thursday, Clarke and Ponting, who both contributed double centuries in the first innings, combined for 71 runs.
Clarke was on 37 when he was beaten for pace by an Umesh Yadav delivery and there was enough of a noise to convince umpire Kumar Dharmasena that the Australian had got a nick before the ball went through to wicketkeeper Saha.
Ponting reached his 61st test half century soon afterwards with a single to the covers but Hussey angrily following his captain back to the dressing room when he was adjudged lbw off an Ishant Sharma delivery for 15.