Kohli 186, Axar 79 give India a chance to push for a win
Back injury puts Iyer out of action; Australia begin with Head and Kuhnemann after Khawaja injures himself in the field
Australia 3 for 0 & 480 (Khawaja 180, Green 114, Ashwin 6-91) trail India 571 (Kohli 186, Gill 128, Axar 79) by 88 runs
Virat Kohli's Test century drought has been broken and the floodgates could open on Australia as they face a battle to save the game on the final day after India's lengthy batting line-up piled up 571 for 9 on the fourth day in Ahmedabad.
Kohli made a magnificent 186 from 364 balls while Axar Patel blasted five fours and four sixes in a blazing 79 to hand India a first-innings lead of 91 after posting 50-plus partnerships for each of the first six wickets of the innings. It could have been more but Shreyas Iyer was unable to bat or take the field on day four due to lower back pain. He left the venue early in the day to have scans.
Australia suffered an injury of their own on a day where their bowlers' figures were badly bruised as they failed to make inroads, or even create chances, on an unhelpful surface. Usman Khawaja hurt his left leg while attempting to take a catch on the rope just after drinks in the middle session. He landed awkwardly and limped from the field shortly after with Australia's team physio. Details of his injury were not confirmed but he did not return and did not bat late in the day with Matt Kuhnemann opening as a nightwatcher. Khawaja has suffered a torn ACL and torn meniscus in his left knee in the past having had surgery to repair both tears.
Kuhnemann and Travis Head survived six overs for three runs as Australia remains 88 runs behind with three sessions of cricket remaining to either salvage a draw or somehow manufacture a result to level the series 2-2.
Kohli, and it seems most of India, had been waiting the agonizing 1205 days for his 28th Test century. But he was willing to wait as long as was necessary to reach three figures against some disciplined Australian bowling in the first two hours of the day.
He was near faultless in reaching his 75th international century just after lunch. It was the second slowest of his Test career, off 241 deliveries, and featured just five boundaries in his first 100 runs and none in the first session of the morning.
The discipline and patience he showed was rewarded handsomely thereafter, as the burden of the three-year wait washed away and the dominant Kohli of old returned. He tore into Australia's two fast men Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc during attempted hostile spells with the reversing ball. He also became ever more expansive and extravagant against the two offspinners Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy, who he treated with the utmost respect in the first session.
He got wonderful support all the way through the day. His 168-run partnership with Axar was the fruit of his morning labour. The pair scored with incredible freedom compared to the grind pre-lunch. Australia's bowlers flagged in the afternoon sun. Kohli struck 10 classy boundaries in the afternoon unfurling some sublime drives on the up and some supreme pull shots off Lyon in particular, trusting the Ahmedabad bounce with cross-bat shots having fallen foul to them previously in the series on less trustful surfaces.
While Kohli got into line and prospered mostly through the leg side, Axar gave room to carve through the off. But he did mix in four brutal slog sweeps, three that landed in the stands and one that bounced into the fence at warp speed. Axar did have some luck against Lyon, edging him to slip where Smith couldn't hang onto an incredibly difficult one-handed chance high to his right. There were some other nervous moments defending Lyon but otherwise, it was smooth sailing.
The pair looked nailed on for a double-century stand and twin milestones with Kohli's 200 and Axar's maiden Test century in sight. But Axar fell by the sword, chopping Mitchell Starc onto the stumps trying to flay him on the up through cover.
Kohli ran out of partners as R Ashwin holed out in the deep and Umesh Yadav was run out by a brilliant direct hit from the deep from Peter Handscomb for a diamond duck trying to keep Kohli on strike.
Kohli was dropped himself by Handscomb in the deep off Lyon on 185, a difficult chance diving low at long-on. It only cost one run as he holed out swinging for the fence next over.
Earlier, Kohli also shared half-century stands with Ravindra Jadeja and KS Bharat in the morning but India only managed 73 runs in the first session. Lyon and Murphy bowled superbly to keep a lid on the scoring, with Kohli really battling to break free from very disciplined lines and lengths although he was never threatened in defence. Jadeja eventually did smacking Murphy down the ground, but he holed out meekly to mid-on not long after.
Bharat slog-swept his second ball for six over wide long-on but battled to 25 from 70 at lunch. However, he hit the accelerator after lunch when Cameron Green tried to pepper him with short balls under instruction from his captain Steven Smith with a heavy legside field. After ducking a full over of short balls, he unfurled two pulls for a six and a cut for four in the following over.
Lyon knocked him over shortly after with turn and bounce. It was one of only three wickets he took for the innings across a marathon 65 overs. It is the most he has ever bowled in a Test innings and he deserved better reward than he got. Murphy also took three wickets from 45.5. They were Australia's best two bowlers by far as indicated by their workloads. Smith did not have as much faith in the other three with the two quicks lathered to all parts while Kuhnemann was nowhere near as effective on this surface as he had been in Indore.
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo