Cricket Australia XI 356 for 6 (Short 74, Hardie 69*, Bryant 62, Shami 3-67) trail Indians 358 by two runs
India's time in the field on the third day at the SCG was dominated by the ankle injury to Prithvi Shaw which sent him to hospital and saw him return to the ground on crutches, leaving India's opening plans for the first Test in Adelaide - and perhaps beyond - needing a rethink.
It was an unconvincing performance from India, as the Cricket Australia XI reached 0 for 114 and then were able to see out the day through an unbroken stand of 122 between Aaron Hardie and Harry Nielsen, although the bowlers did improve during the afternoon session.
The opening spells of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav were poor as the Cricket Australia XI openers, D'Arcy Short and Max Bryant, cantered along at five-an-over. Virat Kohli wore the expression of a frustrated captain as he watched his quicks struggle to settle, although his main concern would soon become the well being of Shaw. However, the value of a few miles in the legs showed during the afternoon. Shami removed Short before lunch to a top-edged hook and later got one through Jake Carder - who faced 139 balls for his 38 before playing around a full delivery - then had Jonathan Merlo caught behind. Yadav, meanwhile removed Sam Whiteman when the left hander edged a booming drive. Ishant Sharma ended wicketless from 16 overs, in just his second match since the Oval Test in early September, but did beat the bat on occasions on what remained a slow pitch.
"Initially we conceded a few runs with the new ball and then we realized what lengths we had to bowl and what sort of fields we need to keep," R Ashwin said. "Practice matches are those where you are looking to get something out of it for yourself and as a bowling group when you go out there on the park.
R Ashwin's Test numbers in Australia are not pretty - 21 wickets at 54.71 - although he may be feeling a frisson of excitement at being able to target a batting order with plenty of left handers in Adelaide. Regardless, though, of the wickets he takes he will also have a role to play in keeping a hold on the scoring rate to allow the three quicks to rotate and not exhaust themselves, in the manner Graeme Swann did on England's successful 2010-11 tour. He was the first bowler to offer Kohli control after the rapid start by the CA XI and broke the opening stand when Bryant missed his charge. An inexperienced batting line-up was not the toughest challenge he will face, but he settled onto a steady line and length as he clocked up 24 overs in the day.
"I thought the ball came out pretty well," Ashwin said. "I haven't played an international game for a while so it felt good the way it came out. Obviously the next four to five days I will prep up a bit more for the game."
Eyes on Rahul and Vijay
The news that Shaw will miss at least the Adelaide Test has thrown the spotlight back on KL Rahul and M Vijay. Rahul failed in the first innings of this match, driving tamely to mid-off, which earned a mild rebuke from batting coach Sanjay Banger. Vijay did not get a bat on the second day, but the indications were that he would have had a hit in the second innings even before Shaw's injury. Now that gains added importance given a likely return to the Test line-up against Australia's strong pace attack next week. Vijay was dropped after the second Test against England - where he made a pair at Lord's - but fought his way back into contention through a spell with Essex. He was one of the Test squad players to play for India A in New Zealand recently where he made 28 and 60 in Mount Maunganui so at least has some time in the middle not too long ago.
CA XI again make tourists sweat
The CA XI have more than held their own against the Indians, as they did a couple of times against England on last year's Ashes tour. Short put aside his recent T20 struggles with some lovely timing - his 74 was higher than his current first-class best of 66 - and Bryant took the attack to India's quicks. Whiteman, who may return to the Western Australia Shield team next week, shaped up nicely before his loose drive and when it appeared the innings could fall away Hardie, the star with the ball yesterday, and Nielsen kept India in the field as they each made composed half-centuries. They don't have any plans to declare either, instead making India bowl them out before they can have another bat. "We're definitely not declaring," Short said. "We'll bat for as long as we can, keep them out there and make them bowl to us and bowl us out."