The unsuccessful, wild approach by the Australian openers failed as both batsman fell in quick succession after smashing 49 in 7.2 overs © AFP
Australia employed an unsuccessful, wild approach in their second innings because it was the only way the batsmen thought they could survive, said coach Tim Nielsen. After being set a victory target of 516, Australia were reduced to 58 for 5 on the fourth afternoon after openers Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich smashed their way to 49 in 7.2 overs.
Hayden signalled the tourists' intent by charging the first ball of the innings, but the momentum swung quickly when offspinner Harbhajan Singh picked up both openers in the over before tea. "Whatever India made," Nielsen said, "we thought that to be successful we had to have the mindset to chase it down.
"Trying to bat for nine or ten hours and just saving your wicket, or defending against the quality of the bowlers they have, makes it very difficult. Our challenge was to put pressure down by scoring runs and knocking the bowlers off their length."
The risky move failed badly and Australia now has only five wickets remaining after finishing at 141 for 5. The visitors still need 375 for victory or to bat for 90 overs to secure a draw.
"We had some success for a short time, but unfortunately we weren't quite able to get through," Nielsen said. "We lost two wickets in an over and the wind certainly went out of our sails."
Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin stabilised the previously frenetic situation in an 83-run stand, with Clarke unbeaten on 42 and Haddin on 37. Nielsen retained faith that the pair could negotiate the final day.
"There's a fair bit of water to go under the bridge tomorrow," he said. "They've played well for the last hour and a half, and they can get a start tomorrow India will need to bowl very well."
Nielsen refused to point fingers at his under-performing players despite seeing them dominated throughout the first four days of the test. "We're aware we've been behind the eight-ball for much of this game," he said. "We're working hard to get through this game and then after that we'll have some time to sit back and have a bit of a think about what we're doing and how we can do it better."
One major area of concern is the performance of bowling spearhead Brett Lee, who has failed to penetrate on the Indian pitches over the first two games. Ricky Ponting did not use Lee until after lunch on the fourth day, when he picked up Sourav Ganguly for 27, finishing with 1 for 61 off 14 overs.
"It's certainly not an indictment of how poor he's bowled," Nielsen said of delaying Lee's entry. "He hasn't got the results he would like, but has had some decent spells at times. "It's probably indicative of our whole tour at the moment. We can't quite put the pressure we need for extended periods."