'First-innings letdown put us in a spot'

The Australian players may have enough time to reflect on the missed opportunities that - barring a miraculous performance on Tuesday morning- will likely cost them a series victory.

The game seemed finely balanced when Australia began their second innings, trailing India by 32 runs, but the batting line-up crumbled under a sustained assault of both short-pitched bowling and spin. Steven Smith's dismissal - he misjudged the length of a Bhuvneshwar Kumar delivery and was bowled - was the catalyst for a collapse that gave Australia a meagre lead of 105 to defend.

There was hope when Glenn Maxwell counter-attacked to score 45, but Australia lost five for 31, including his dismissal, with Matthew Wade running out of partners. By stumps, India had all 10 wickets in hand and now require a mere 87 runs to clinch the series and regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

"Just stating the obvious, you could hear a pin drop in the dressing room," Australia batting coach Graeme Hick said. "A very disappointing day. There is always a chance until the final ball is bowled. But yeah, a hard day today. The boys are pretty down but they will give it a good crack in the morning and you never know. But it is a tough ask.

"You know when you come here, there is the danger of losing wickets in clumps. The hardest part is getting yourself in, getting that first half hour out of the way and then making sure you do the job. I think if I look back over this game and one or two others in the series, I will say we missed an opportunity and left some runs there in the first innings.

"From a 130 for 1 on the first day to only put 300 on the board... if we had another 100 runs, 150 runs in that first innings, then we are in the game tomorrow. So while today was very disappointing, it's not the only reason why we find ourselves in this position."

Australia stuttered right at the start in their second innings when David Warner, after being dropped for the second time in the match by Karun Nair at third slip, drove hard at Umesh Yadav in the fourth over and edged to Wriddhiman Saha. It capped off a disappointing tour for the opener - he has averaged 24.12 for the series, compared to his overall average of 47.42. He did little to change a growing perception that he struggles away from home.

"Obviously David will be very disappointed with his aggregate on tour," Hick said. "He is a very aggressive player, that's the way he likes to play and the way we like to him play. He was desperate to have a very big tour and to have a very big influence here.

"Whether he put himself under a bit too much pressure to do so, only he can answer that. He will reflect on it, as champions do, and feel and assess it himself. But without a doubt, he is one of our major players and you would have hoped for a little bit more from him but he was challenged.

"It is tough up front, [Ravindra] Jadeja into the rough, [R] Ashwin bowls really well at him. [They] certainly questioned him. That's the beauty of the game, it puts these challenges up between great players and makes it very interesting to watch. David will obviously be very disappointed with the way things have gone."

But the critical blow was the loss of Smith's wicket. The Australian captain has accumulated 499 runs in the series - more than anyone else - and his outstanding form has arguably papered over any weaknesses in Australia's relatively new-look top six. He had just dispatched consecutive Bhuvneshwar deliveries to the boundary before his dismissal and there was no middle-order stand to provide a Ranchi-style rearguard action.

"You'll look back, and in hindsight in this series, and say that we have been a bit reliant on him, but there again, you've had some great contributions and performances," Hick said. "Saving the game in the last Test, with [Peter] Handscomb and [Shaun] Marsh was as good as any hundred that Steve Smith scored, in those conditions and that pressure. Yeah, the scorecards will show that Steve Smith has had an amazing series and it has looked that way.

"He's just playing wonderful cricket at the moment. He asked me in the dressing room and I just said I think you're just playing too well. You're seeing the ball like a football and hitting it to all parts of the grounds. He's just playing beautifully.

"Steve Smith is a huge wicket for us, especially in the form he's in. Yeah, he'll be disappointed, as would anyone else. But yeah, very unfortunate for us because he's had a very good series. He's got seven hundreds in the last eight Tests against India. He's got a lot of runs against them. In some respect, you think they haven't worked out how to bowl to him yet. So that was a bit unfortunate."