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Australia in control after taking 326-run lead against India

Australia-in-controlAustralia put themselves in a comfortable position by taking an overall lead of 326 runs by the end of the fourth day as the third cricket Test headed for an exciting finish, with India needing to go for a all-out win to keep themselves afloat in the series.

India’s first innings folded for 465, adding just three runs to their overnight score, with Mitchell Johnson polishing off the tail without much fuss. The hosts then rode on David Warner’s pacy 40, Rogers’ patient 69 and Shaun Marsh (62 not out) to reach 261-7 at close on a rain-hit fourth day at the MCG, taking an overall lead of 326 with three wickets in hand.

With one whole day left, Australia may add a few more runs before declaring the innings and set India a stiff target early tomorrow. India will have to play out of their skin to either win or save the match on a tricky fifth day track.

Interestingly, England is the only team to have successfully chased down a total of 300 plus on the fourth innings at MCG. They had made 332 for seven way back in 1929.

At stumps, Shaun Marsh and Ryan Harris were batting on 62 and 8 respectively. Earlier, resuming at an overnight score of 462/8, India could survive just 15 deliveries as Johnson dismissed Mohammed Shami (12) and Umesh Yadav (0) within a space of eight balls to earn Australia a 65-run lead.

Australia then got off to a rousing start in their second innings with David Warner (40 runs, 42 balls, 6 fours) attacking the Indian bowlers, giving his team an early push as they look to set an imposing fourth-innings’ target for India. After he was dismissed by Ashwin, Rogers and Shane Watson (17) tried to extend the lead as Australia took lunch at 90 for one in 22 overs.

However, rain intervention after lunch, resulted in a loss of 85 minutes of play and when play resumed, regular wickets fell to leave the hosts at 174/4 in 43 overs at tea, which was taken after an extended second session.

In the final session of play, India took three more wickets, dismissing Joe Burns (9), Brad Haddin (13) and Johnson (15) but Australia had put themselves in a comfortable position by then.

India kept a tight leash on the Australian second innings after a lengthy rain delay in the afternoon with Ishant Sharma (2-49), R Ashwin (2-56) and Umesh Yadav (2-73) taking two wickets each, while Mohammad Shami (1-75) snapping one.

Bad weather resulted in a loss of 85 minutes of play but once play resumed at the MCG, India tried to fight back with their impressive bowling performance.

Rogers (69 runs, 123 balls, 8 fours) and Shane Watson (17) tried to increase their lead further and they were nearly helped by Shikhar Dhawan, who dropped a tough one-handed chance at second slip, diving in front of R Ashwin (2-21) at first slip.

Rogers, who was batting on 33 at that time, was the batsman to benefit against Ishant Sharma (1-38) in that 23rd over of the innings. The breakthrough came two overs later though as Ishant this time had Watson caught behind.

Steve Smith (14) came out to bat and took Australia past the 100-run mark in the 26th over, adding 33 runs for the third wicket. Meanwhile, Rogers went on to score his fourth successive half-century of the series, getting to the mark off 81 balls, in the 28th over. Four overs later his partnership with Smith was broken by Umesh Yadav (1-55) when the young skipper was caught by Ajinkya Rahane as the leg slip finally came into play.

With just 20 minutes left in the session, Ashwin returned into the attack and dealt a big blow to Australia, cleaning up Rogers in the 41st over, the batsman looking solid until then. Marsh and Burns then negotiated the rest of the session without damage as Australia took tea at 174-4. After the break, Marsh and debutant Burns (9) looked to march on but were only able to add two runs when the latter was dismissed poking at a good length delivery from Ishant in the 46th over, snapped up by a diving MS Dhoni.

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