India were battling to avoid defeat against Australia after losing two wickets before the close of play yesterday in a third Test marred by allegations of racist abuse from the Sydney crowd.
The hosts declared their second innings at tea on day four at 312 for six, leaving India needing a mammoth 407 to win, and they reached 98-2 at stumps, still needing a further 309 runs with the four-match series locked at 1-1. No team has ever bettered 288 to clinch victory in the fourth innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with Australia achieving that mark against South Africa in 2006.
India’s record run chase started steadily before losing openers Shubman Gill for 31 and Rohit Sharma for 52, leaving their hopes resting on Cheteshwar Pujara, who was nine not out, and captain Ajinkya Rahane, unbeaten on four.
Sharma and Gill lived dangerously against some early torrid bowling by Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
But they settled in during a 71-run stand to begin playing their shots, with the graceful Sharma bringing up an 11th Test 50 before being caught at fine leg hooking a Cummins short ball.
Gill, who has cemented his place in the side after making a debut this series, again looked at home until he nicked a Hazlewood delivery to Tim Paine behind the stumps on 31.
Australia’s declaration came after Cameron Green fell on the stroke of tea for an entertaining 84, his maiden Test half-century, with captain Tim Paine unbeaten on 39.
Steve Smith made 81 and Marnus Labuschagne 73, with Ashwin and Navdeep Saini grabbing two wickets each.
Just before the break there was a near 10-minute interruption to play that saw six fans removed after Mohammed Siraj, fielding on the boundary, complained to the umpire.
It was not clear what was said, but the incident followed India lodging a complaint on Saturday after allegations of racist abuse towards the team by sections of the crowd. The International Cricket Council launched an investigation with Cricket Australia apologising to India and vowing anyone at fault faced “lengthy bans, further sanctions and referral to NSW Police”.