MELBOURNE - Pat Cummins followed up his second innings six-for with a brilliant unbeaten 61 on Saturday but at 258/8 in chase of 399, Australia will still need a miracle to stave off defeat. After India declared their second innings at 106/8 on the fourth day, setting a target one short of 400, Australia were always going to need the top-order to perform well or for weather intervention. But they got the benefit of neither, and in face of some quality bowling on a supportive pitch, they were reduced to 258/8, still 141 runs shy of the target.

India would have expected to go up 2-1 on the fourth day itself especially after opting for the extra thirty minutes, but Cummins’ defiance means they will have to wait some more.

The chase began disastrously for Australia with Aaron Finch playing a rash cut shot in just the second over to edge it to Virat Kohli at second slip off Jasprit Bumrah. Marcus Harris showed some application during his 27-ball stay, which was ended for a score of 13 with a fine catch at short leg by Mayank Agarwal off Ravindra Jadeja. Harris was looking to play a defensive stroke, but only got an inside edge onto his pad, which lobbed up.

Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh then looked relatively solid and forged a promising 30-run stand before Mohammed Shami got one to straighten a tad to have the former trapped in front for 33, which featured a big six off Jadeja. Khawaja reviewed in desperation, but it was plumb.

Shaun too showed some intent by stepping down to Jadeja and lofting him over long on. He looked relatively comfortable until he was dismissed beaten on the inside edge by Bumrah to get out leg before for 44. He took the review as well, but the on-field decision stayed after the ball was shown to be clipping leg stump.

With the pacers making survival difficult, Australian batsmen tried to attack Jadeja’s spin. But the approach benefitted the spinner, who came out with a total of three wickets even though a few sixes were hit off him.

Mitchell Marsh also decided to take the attack to left-arm spinner and even hit a big one over long on. But he got a thick edge to Kohli when he tried to play another heave to fall for just 10.

Travis Head showed some resistance playing out 92 deliveries for 34. He fell when his attempted drive off Ishant Sharma took an inside edge onto his leg-stump. Australia captain Tim Paine never looked settled and early in his innings had a couple of edges go through the slip cordon for boundaries. But his luck ran out when he tried to play a cut to Jadeja from round the wicket, only getting a bottom edge, which Rishabh Pant did well to pouch.

The lower order batsmen were peppered with short stuff, but Cummins showed great application in playing them out. But once Paine – the last recognised batsman was back in the hut – he showed more inclination to play some shots. He even hit a flighted delivery from Jadeja for six over long off, and followed that with a crisp punch off Shami to the cover point boundary.

Starc looked to play big strokes and after a few near-misses, was castled by an in-swinger from Mohammed Shami for 18. However, Nathan Lyon and Cummins buckled to frustrate India.

Lyon was content on solid defence for the most part, but Cummins continued to play some of the finest shots of the innings, bringing up his fifty with a lovely cover drive off Bumrah in the first over with the second new ball. In the next over, he played a spectacular straight drive off Ishant.

His efforts have ensured that play will go to the final day, and Australia will hope for rains to aid them in their quest to secure an improbable draw.

The day had begun with India at 54/5, but they were already well ahead in the game thanks to their first innings effort of 443/7. Agarwal, resuming on 28, quickly added 14 runs to his score, thanks largely to a couple of sixes he hit off Lyon’s off-spin. He then played on to Cummins, giving the bowler his fifth wicket. Pant, overnight 6, played some bold shots to add weight to India’s total. He unleashed a wide variety of strokes in his knock of 33, which was built around three fours and a six. Kohli decided to declare the innings when he nicked an attempted ramp shot to the wicket-keeper.

SCORBOARD

 INDIA 1ST INNINGS: 443-7 DEC

AUSTRALIA 1ST INNINGS: 151

INDIA 2ND INNINGS:

(OVERNIGHT: 54-5):

M Agarwal b Cummins 42

H. Vihari c Khawaja b Cummins 13

C Pujara c Harris b Cummins 0

V Kohli c Harris b Cummins 0

A Rahane c Paine b Cummins 1

R Sharma c S.Marsh b Hazlewood 5

R Pant c Paine b Hazlewood 33

R Jadeja c Khawaja b Cummins 5

M Shami not out 0

EXTRAS: (lb1 b5, w1) 7

TOTAL: (8 wkts decl, 37.3 overs) 106

FOW: 1-28, 2-28, 3-28, 4-32, 5-44, 6-83, 7-100, 8-106

BOWLING: Starc 3-1-11-0, Hazlewood 10.3-3-22-2, Cummins 11-3-27-6, Lyon 13-1-40-0

AUSTRALIA 2ND INNINGS:

M Harris c Agwaral b Jadeja 13

A Finch c Kohli b Bumrah 3

U Khawaja lbw b Shami 33

S Marsh lbw b Bumrah 44

T Head b Sharma 34

M Marsh c Kohli b Jadeja 10

T Paine c Pant b Jadeja 26

P Cummins not out 61

M Starc b Shami 18

N Lyon not out 6

EXTRAS: (lb6, b2, w2) 10

TOTAL: (8 wkts, 85 overs) 258

FOW: 1-6, 2-33, 3063, 4-114, 5-135, 6-157, 7-176, 8-215

BOWLING: Bumrah 17-1-53-2, Sharma 12-0-37-1, Jadeja 32-6-82-3, Shami 21-2-71-2, Vihari 3-1-7-0

TOSS: India

UMPIRES: Marais Erasmus (RSA), Ian Gould (ENG)

TV UMPIRE: Richard Kettleborough (ENG)

MATCH REFEREE: Paul Wilson (AUS)