Dharamsala: India were on the verge of a riveting series victory after an incisive performance from the bowlers saw them skittle Australia out for a paltry 137 in their second innings on the third day of the fourth and final Test in Dharamsala on Monday.
Set a target of 106, India were 19 for no loss at stumps, needing another 87 runs to win the series inside four days.
KL Rahul (13 batting) got three boundaries off Pat Cummins' opening over to set the tone for the home side.
Ravindra Jadeja, with an all-round show (63 and 3/24 in 18 overs), was the star performer but Ravichandran Ashwin (3/29 in 13.5 overs) and Umesh Yadav (3/29 in 10 overs) played their part to perfection as the second Australian innings was wrapped up in 53.5 overs.
There were two important factors that tilted the game in India's favour on the day; a half-century by Jadeja, which enabled India to get to 332 in the first innings, followed by Australia's premier batsman, Steve Smith's poor shot selection off Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Glenn Maxwell (45) and Peter Handscomb (18) showed positive intent with a 56-run partnership for the fourth wicket but on a pitch that provided both turn and bounce, it was never going to be easy for them to survive.
Matthew Wade (25 off 90 balls) was at his defensive best, dead batting anything and everything that came his way, but that too was not going to be enough as wickets tumbled at the other end.
Bhuvneshwar, who till the post-lunch session was having a horrible Test match, for once got lucky when Smith tried to pull a short delivery only to get a bottom edge that knocked back his off-stump.
While he was at the crease, Smith looked in ominous touch, having hit three boundaries in his 17 before his dismissal, which left him one short of a series aggregate of 500 runs.
It was Umesh, India's best fast bowler in recent times, who looked menacing on a bouncy pitch troubling both the Australian openers.
After a few bouncers, Umesh cleverly pitched it up to get enough away movement that kissed David Warner's (6) bat on the way to the safe hands of keeper Wriddhiman Saha.
Renshaw (8) survived a drop at third slip when a thickish edge off a Bhuvneshwar delivery was grassed by Karun Nair, who was standing at the third slip.
But Renshaw didn't last long as Umesh got one to rear up and deviate enough, forcing the big southpaw to give Saha his second catch of the innings.
Maxwell, however, was in a mood to counter-attack as he hit debutant Kuldeep Yadav for a six over long-on. He scored runs quickly, smashing five fours and a six in the process.
Handscomb played an even better shot —— inside-out cover drive off Kuldeep, but Ashwin got him with one that bounced sharply and the edge flew to skipper Ajinkya Rahane, who again showed his brilliance in the slip cordon.
Shaun Marsh (1) became Jadeja's first victim as he got one to land on the crack and it jumped to hit the batsman's gloves on its way to Cheteshwar Pujara at forward-short-leg.
Post tea, Ashwin got Maxwell leg-before, a decision that was referred by the batsman but TV umpire went with on-field umpire's call.
It also led to an argument between Wade and Jadeja, prompting Ashwin to intervene and stop things from getting uglier.
Steve O'Keefe (0) was Jadeja's third victim, caught at silly point by Pujara, while Lyon did not trouble the scorers before becoming Umesh's third scalp.
Josh Hazlewood (0) also failed to score even after surviving a slip catch off an Ashwin delivery.
Earlier, Jadeja's stroke-filled half-century enabled India to get the all-important lead.
Jadeja (63 off 95 balls) reached his seventh fifty in Tests with the help of four boundaries and four sixes. The seventh-wicket partnership of 96 in 30 overs with Saha (31) could well prove to be the turning point on this Dharamsala track.
For Australia, Nathan Lyon (5/98) had a rich haul. Saha, on his part, again showed steely temperament despite another testing morning spell by Cummins (3/94) and Hazlewood (1/51).
Jadeja was adjudged caught behind off the very first ball of the third morning bowled by Cummins, but he promptly used DRS to get a favourable decision after TV replays confirmed that there was no edge.
He was also hit on the helmet by a snorter from Cummins, but the feisty cricketer didn't show any discomfort.
His best shot of the morning was a picture-perfect straight drive off Cummins that raced through the grass blades.
The moment Lyon flighted one, Jadeja jumped out to loft him effortlessly over long-off for his third six. He also had a streaky boundary off Lyon past the slip cordon.
While Saha dabbed around for singles and the occasional doubles, Jadeja took risks at will.
A quick single brought up his 50 and there was the customary sword-wielding celebration from the Saurashtra all-rounder. In fact, Jadeja joined Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Murali Vijay, among others, who have surpassed 50 six times in the current season. He also became the second Indian cricketer after Kapil Dev to achieve the double of 500 runs and 50 wickets in a season.
He was not afraid against the short-pitched stuff bowled by Cummins as he pulled him to deep mid-wicket for a boundary and then, for good measure, hooked him behind square for his fourth six.
Cummins, though, had the last laugh when Jadeja played on while trying to smash a fullish delivery.
Cummins then got Saha with an unplayable delivery that climbed big on him as he tried to awkwardly fend it. The ball popped up off his gloves and Smith backpedalled and timed his jump to perfection to pull off a spectacular catch.
For the record, both Jadeja and Saha completed their individual 1,000 runs in Test cricket.
Updated Date: Mar 27, 2017 18:08 PM