Aussies poised for a crushing victory
India 246 and 105 for 6 (Dravid 47*) need 352 more runs to beat Australia 474 and 228 (Martyn 45, Harbhajan 6-78)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Australia stood on the brink of a thoroughly deserved victory in the first Test after the old firm of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, bowling together against India for the first time since 2001, brought about a top-order collapse to leave India sinking in quicksand, ending the fourth day 352 behind with only four wickets in hand. Even rain, which is forecast for tomorrow, is unlikely to save them, because it rarely rains heavily enough here in Bangalore to wash out a whole day.
India battled manfully during the early part of the day to restrict Australia to 228 - a total which neatly doubled their first-innings lead - at a lesser rate than they would have liked. Harbhajan Singh was magnificent, bowling with control and guile, and claiming wickets at regular intervals. But ever since India were bowled out for 246, it had been clear that their batsmen would have to dig them out of the hole in the second innings. It was a tall order, and the past was staring at India like an apparition. They needed a distant 457 to win on a ground where the highest successful run-chase is 195 ... and within little more than an hour they were reduced to 24 for 4, through a mixture of accurate bowling, dodgy umpiring, and a shambolic piece of running between the wickets.
India began their innings in the worst possible manner, when they lost Virender Sehwag to a terrible decision from Billy Bowden: a straight one from Glenn McGrath caught a thick edge on its way to Sehwag's pad. The din must have drowned out the noise of the nick, but the deviation was visible to the naked eye from the stands behind the bowler's arm. But Bowden raised his finger, and to add injury to insult, Sehwag might cop a fine for showing his displeasure (1 for 1). Minutes later it was 7 for 2, when Aakash Chopra fell to another contentious decision, this time by Steve Bucknor: Jason Gillespie rapped him on the pad with a incutter, and replays showed that the ball might have missed leg.
McGrath's deadly knack of varying his pace and the seam's angle, while always hitting the corridor just outside off, made him a devilish proposition. He snapped up two wickets in two spells, but more importantly was instrumental in piling on the pressure with his parsimony, as he sent down eight maidens in his 12 overs, conceding only nine runs.
It got even worse when a horrendous misunderstanding led to Sourav Ganguly being run out. He pushed one to short midwicket, and took off for a single immediately, only to see Rahul Dravid stop after a couple of strides. Ganguly was stranded halfway down the pitch, and didn't even bother to look back as Adam Gilchrist uprooted the off stump with great glee.
And the final blow came just before tea, when Shane Warne deceived VVS Laxman with his first ball. It came down flatter and quicker, Laxman played for more turn than there was, was hit in line, and fell to Warne for the second time in the match. The crowd roared its disapproval of the decision, but the ball was dead straight (19 for 4).
Dravid waged a solitary battle as a crushing defeat loomed large, but two more setbacks at the other end all but lit the Indian funeral pyre. The weekend crowd - nearly a full house - cheered their local hero, after all else had gone awry. India had limped to 105 for 6 from 49 overs by the close, with Dravid undefeated on 47.
The only silver lining for India was the form shown by Harbhajan, who teased the batsmen with his subtle variations of length and turn. Keeping it as straight as possible, he forced the batsmen to defend after charging down the track, and no-one summoned the courage to loft him over the top. Damien Martyn was forced to curb his fluent style, and ensured that the first hour was negotiated without too many jitters. He blocked, shouldered arms and drove straight to the infielders, and survived a few close leg-before shouts. Just 20 runs came off the first 10 overs, as Martyn helped Australia into a near-impregnable position.
He was eventually out for 45, pushing an uppish drive to short midwicket, but a flurry of runs followed his dismissal, with Warne's energetic cameo providing the boost. Although there were two fielders positioned on the square boundary, Warne swept Harbhajan crisply and, along with Gilchrist, provided the final kick towards a lead of more than 450.
Harbhajan mopped up the tail after lunch to finish with 11 for 224 in the match, the best return by any bowler on this ground, taking his tally in his last three home Tests against the Aussies to 39 - but by then the visitors' middle order had already done enough ... and more.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo in India.