Agarkar five-for puts India on top
Close India 523 (Dravid 233, Laxman 148) and 37 for 0 need 193 more runs to beat Australia 556 and 196 (Agarkar 6-41)
Ajit Agarkar blew Australia away with a his first Test 5-for
An enthralling day's cricket ended with India requiring just 193 more - with all ten wickets in hands - to pull off a stunning victory over Australia at the Adelaide Oval. After Rahul Dravid, with his 233, had steered the Indians to within 33 of Australia's first-innings total, Ajit Agarkar turned in his career-best performance, taking 6 for 41 to bundle Australia out for 196. By close of play, the Indian openers had knocked off 37 from the original target of 230.
On an increasingly wearing pitch, the Indian bowlers profited from bowling a good line and length, and allowing the footholds at the other end do the rest. The Australian batsmen responded to the challenge as they always do - coming hard at the bowlers and looking to dominate. However, the fourth-day track was no longer the batting beauty it was on days one and two - every time the ball pitched on the rough, it stopped, which made playing on the up fraught with danger. Four of the top six got starts, but they all fell playing one attacking stroke too many.
India were helped by the start that Agarkar gave them with the new ball: Justin Langer was trapped in front by one which nipped back - a replica of his first-innings dismissal at the Gabba - while Ricky Ponting followed up his double-hundred with a duck, as Akash Chopra at gully snapped up an uppish back-foot drive (18 for 2). When Matthew Hayden scooped a drive to cover soon after lunch for 17, Australia were struggling at 44 for 3, and the lead was a mere 77.
Then came the first of the two substantial partnerships in Australia's innings, as Damien Martyn and Steve Waugh put together 55. Martyn uncorked some glorious cover-drives in another commanding display, and with Waugh overcoming a scratchy start and playing his trademark rasping square-drives, the Australian innings was back on track.
Noticing that the drying track was increasingly aiding spin - even Anil Kumble's legbreaks turned a great deal when they pitched on the rough - Sourav Ganguly brought on Sachin Tendulkar, and the move paid off spectacularly, as both Martyn (38) and Waugh (42) chased wide ones which spun off the footholds. Dravid held both catches - Martyn's was a spectacular, one-handed effort, while Waugh's was more straightforward - and suddenly Australia had slumped to 112 for 5 at tea.
Adam Gilchrist then starred in the second mini-revival, bludgeoning a typically thunderous 43, off 45 balls. He survived a stumping chance off Kumble on 13, and made the Indians pay for it, tonking both Kumble and Tendulkar for sixes. His partnership with Simon Katich, who tackled the spinners and the pitch with plenty of confidence, had mounted 71 from a mere 15 overs when Gilchrist's overconfidence did him in. Attempting to sweep a straight delivery from Kumble, he moved too far inside the line and found his leg stump knocked back (183 for 6).
Agarkar then moved in for the kill, with a wicket in each of his last four overs, as Australia added just 13 more. The short ball, so profitable for Agarkar in this series, brought him more success when Katich holed out to Ashish Nehra at fine leg for 31, while the tail succumbed to old-fashioned line-and-length stuff.
The Indian openers survived the ten overs left in the day with scarcely a scare, as Virender Sehwag thumped a couple of fours square of the wicket off the seamers, and clunked Stuart MacGill's first ball - a full toss - to the midwicket fence. Chopra didn't show any signs of nerves either, cover-driving Jason Gillespie and MacGill with superb timing.
The events through the day completely overshadowed Dravid's achievement earlier in the morning. Resuming on 199, he reached his double-hundred with the first ball of the day, cutting MacGill for four, and then pushed the Indian innings along to 523. He was the last man to fall, top-edging a catch to Andy Bichel off Gillespie, whose figures of 1 for 106 was scant reward for some lion-hearted bowling. It seemed then that Dravid's innings would, at best, be a match-saving one. Now, it could well be a matchwinning effort.
S Rajesh is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.