ADELAIDE Dec 9 (Reuters) - Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane posted half-centuries in a telling 87-run stand to help propel India to an ominous 275-run lead at lunch on day four of the first test on Sunday.
Dogged spinner Nathan Lyon took two late wickets to slow India’s charge, but the tourists were well in control at 260 for five at the end of the sunny morning session at Adelaide Oval.
Rahane was 57 not out, with aggressive wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant on 10, and Virat Kohli’s men eyeing their first series-opening win on Australian soil.
With five wickets in the shed, India will feel hugely confident of setting Australia an unreachable target. The highest successful fourth innings chase at Adelaide Oval was the 315 scored by the hosts against England in 1902.
After a morning of frustration, Lyon was finally rewarded with a breakthrough wicket when he had first-innings centurion Pujara out for 71 with a bat-pad catch that looped up to Aaron Finch.
The offspinner then sent Rohit Sharma back to the dressing room for one off six balls, with Peter Handscomb taking a superb one-handed catch at silly point.
Pant ensured there would be no collapse though, and slogged Lyon over his head a couple of times in the final overs before the break.
India had resumed on 3-151, and Pujara wasted no time attacking the ageing ball, smashing seamer Josh Hazlewood’s fifth ball of the morning to the fence with a sumptuous cover drive.
He sent a thick edge racing past the gully for four on the next ball in a dispiriting start for Tim Paine’s side.
Pujara, having rescued India’s first innings with a sparkling 123, eased a back foot cut off Lyon for three to raise his fifty.
Lyon’s travails with the Decision Review System continued as Rahane was given out, caught bat-pad, but reprieved by the technology which showed the ball whistling past the batsman’s glove.
Following two overturned decisions against Pujara on day three, it was the third time in the innings that umpire Nigel Llong had got the spinner’s hopes up only for the DRS to crush them.
The Australian seamers were flat for the most part, bowling a line and length that rarely caused discomfort, and offered up enough loose deliveries to allow India to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Pace spearhead Mitchell Starc was given only two overs with the second new ball before he was spelled by Paine after giving up four byes with two wayward deliveries down the leg-side. (Editing by Peter Rutherford)