India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 4th day

Fourth-innings blues for Indian batsmen

The records of Indian batsmen in the final innings of a match aren't impressive, but the recent form of Sachin Tendulkar in such situations should give the fans the courage to hope

S Rajesh

October 4, 2010

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The loss of four wickets has left India with plenty to do on the final day in Mohali, but if Sachin Tendulkar and Co. do manage to score the 161 remaining runs, it will be India's seventh-largest fourth-innings chase. The highest remains the historic 406 for 4 against West Indies at Port-of-Spain, but they have also had some memorable wins more recently. In the last two years, they've batted more than 50 overs in the fourth innings three times, and have won twice and drawn once: against England in Chennai they chased down 387 in less than 100 overs, while against Sri Lanka in Colombo earlier this year, they rode on a superb century from VVS Laxman to chase 258. The last time India lost after a fourth-innings run-chase was in the acrimonious Sydney Test, when they were bowled out for 210 in 70.5 overs.

India's highest successful run-chases
Score Versus Venue
406 for 4 West Indies Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
387 for 4 England Chennai
264 for 3 Sri Lanka Kandy
258 for 5 Sri Lanka Colombo (PSS)
256 for 8 Australia Mumbai (Brabourne)
233 for 6 Australia Adelaide

However, the stats for the Indian batsmen in fourth innings might not inspire much confidence. Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid are the only ones among India's current top order to average more than 40, and both have been removed early in this run-chase. Tendulkar's overall fourth-innings numbers aren't impressive, with only three centuries and four half-centuries, but three of those fifty-plus scores have come in his last seven innings - apart from the unbeaten 103 in the Chennai run-chase against England, he also scored fifties in Colombo and against Pakistan in Delhi in 2007.

MS Dhoni has scored only one half-century in eight fourth innings, but that was a valuable one, and allowed India to escape with a draw against England at Lord's in 2007.

Indian batsmen in the fourth innings
Batsman Innings Runs Average 100s/ 50s
Gautam Gambhir 9 236 47.20 0/ 2
Rahul Dravid 47 1325 42.74 1/ 9
Sachin Tendulkar 48 1276 37.52 3/ 4
VVS Laxman 29 802 36.45 1/ 4
MS Dhoni 8 228 32.57 0/ 1
Virender Sehwag 23 556 29.26 0/ 4

Australia, meanwhile, will fancy their chances after dismissing four of India's top-order batsmen, with one more severely hampered by injury. Since the beginning of 2006 they've successfully defended fourth-innings scores 18 times in 23 attempts, while they've lost three times and drawn two. Before their defeat against Pakistan at Headingley, Australia had won on nine successive occasions when they bowled in the fourth innings. However, apart from their Sydney win against Pakistan earlier this year, when they defended 176, all their wins during this period have come when they had a cushion of more than 275 runs to defend. (Click here to see the list sorted by fourth-innings target.)

Since 1990, there have been ten occasions when Australia have had to defend targets between 175 and 250 in the last innings of a Test - they've won twice, lost five times and drawn three times. Going by the amount of damage they've inflicted in 17 overs on the third evening, they have every chance of adding to that win tally.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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