Australia will almost certainly hand the Border-Gavaskar trophy back to India on day four of the Test series decider, with the hosts 19-0 after being set a target of just 106 runs in Dharamsala. The top-ranked Test side are in an incredibly strong position to push for a victory that will give them a 2-1 series win, capping six weeks of drama, comebacks and controversies.

A grounded catch claimed by Murali Vijay, ruled not out by the third umpire, provided the latest spark. TV replays showed that Australia skipper Steve Smith was livid after the incident occurred late on day three. It could be the source of further bad blood between the sides, but won’t have any bearing on the result. The visitors failed to add another run after the reprieve that came at 137-9.

Smith’s side have fought incredibly hard with bat and ball throughout all four Tests, but their bid for the nation’s second Test series win in India since 1969 came unstuck on moving day of the final game. It started with India resuming at 248-6. Ravindra Jadeja swung momentum his side’s way, slapping six boundaries in a plucky knock of 63 that pushed the hosts to a total of 332.

In response Australia folded for 137. Collapses of 3-21, 2-5 and 3-1 almost certainly put paid to their hopes of winning the high-stakes contest. Defeat will be hard for every member of the touring party to stomach, but especially Smith. The skipper is likely to finish the leading run-scorer of the series with 499 runs.

Smith, as has been his wont during a record-breaking three centuries in the series, looked to be batting on a different pitch to teammates on Monday. The classy right-hander raced to 17 in 14 balls before attempting to pull an unthreatening delivery that was floated up outside off stump. The resultant bottom edge dislodged off stump.

Smith, David Warner and Matt Renshaw all departed during inspired new-ball spells from Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Shaun Marsh, restricted by a jarred back, only came out to bat when Peter Handscomb fell on 18 during the penultimate over of a chaotic post-lunch session on Monday. Tea was called when Marsh popped up a catch to short leg off the bowling of Jadeja, and Australia never arrested their downward momentum thereafter.

Mugen-Realism

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