On Day 3 of the 2nd Test match at Bengaluru against Australia, India gave a glimpse of their self that had dominated teams over the course of the home season. From running through the opposition tail to putting up a stern show with the bat in difficult conditions, Virat Kohli's men made a stunning comeback into the Test match that at the end of Day 2 appeared to be going away from their grasps.
The Australians would have been aiming for a lead in excess of hundred runs when they came out to bat at the start of Day 3. With Shaun Marsh and Mathew Wade going well, the onus was on India to bundle the visitors as early as possible and not leave themselves with a mountain to climb. Thanks to some splendid bowling from Ravindra Jadeja, who was well supported by Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh Yadav as India needed just around 20 overs to wrap up the Australian innings and keep their lead under 100.
However still trailing by 89 runs, the hosts were required to bat well, much better than what they had in the series before. KL Rahul, the only Indian batsmen who had shown some form in this series so far, led from the front with a well-made half-century to give the Indian innings a platform. Barring a hick-up before Tea, when the hosts lost Kohli and Jadeja in quick succession, they seemed to present a much-improved show with the blade.
The final session was more like what we have been seeing from India in the recent games. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were fantastic. They defended astutely when required and punished the bad balls as India scored 91 crucial runs in that session without losing a wicket. It was the first session in the Test match where no wicket had been taken. The hosts ended the day with a 126-run lead with six wickets still intact.
However, despite forcing their way back into the contest, India's job remains half done. The Australians have managed to score more than 250 runs in every innings in the series so far and any target less than that figure would give them a decent chance to capitalise the second Test. So, the first session on Day 4 will be pivotal in deciding which way the game goes.
If India can continue with the same batting performance as they displayed in the final session on Day 3, and build a lead of 200 without losing any or too many wickets, it will put the visitors under pressure. Every run above the 200-run lead will add pressure on the visitors. The Australians would fancy their chances of chasing a target less than 200 even on a Day 4 pitch, while a batting collapse would be disastrous for Kohli's men.
India must pat themselves on the back for getting back into the game, but at the same time roll their sleeves to ensure they end Day 4 in a winning position. The hosts must set Australia a target of more than 250 runs if they are to do so. So, it is extremely vital that India do not lose more than two wickets in the first session and stretch their lead up to 200 by Lunch. That will force the visitors to go on the defensive a bit, thus allowing India to attack and try and push the lead beyond 250.
India's hopes are pinned largely on the pair of Pujara and Rahane who have formed a good partnership. It is the responsibility of either one of them to bat through the innings and make sure India bat for at least half of the fourth day. If they can achieve that, they are certain to set a tough target for the Australians.
The pitch is expected to deteriorate post Tea and hence it becomes even more crucial for India to give the opponents as less time as possible to bat when the pitch might be slightly good to bat on. The Australians will find it hard to score runs or even survive on a crumbling wicket in the last session on Day 4. The Indian spinners are the most dangerous when teams have the pressure of a daunting target on board as they have successfully done in the past. So, it is vital that the batsmen provide the bowlers with this golden opportunity.
The fate of this series rests on the morning session on Day 4. India have a chance of regaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy, given they win the first session on Tuesday.