Michael Clarke and Phil Jaques led a dominating batting display before Australia declared its second innings with a seemingly insurmountable lead over India and two days remaining in the first test.
|Michael Clarke steers Australia to a huge lead |
Australia declared at 351 for seven late Friday and India was 6 without loss after surviving eight overs before stumps, still needing 493 runs to win on a slow and deteriorating Melbourne Cricket Ground wicket.
India, dismissed for 196 runs in reply to Australia's first innings of 343, will need to make history to win the match, while Australia has six sessions to take 10 wickets on a pitch that is becoming increasingly difficult for batsmen.
The highest successful run-chase at the MCG was England's 332 against Australia in the 1928-29 Ashes series.
Only three teams have ever completed a winning run-chase in excess of 400 runs in the fourth innings of a test.
Rahul Dravid (3) and Wasim Jaffer (2) will resume India's chase on day four.
"It is a stiff target, but with the kind of batting lineup we have, if we play to our potential, anything can happen," said offspinner Harbhajan Singh, who led the Indian bowlers with figures of 3-101.
All but one of Australia's batsmen got promising starts in the second innings, but none went on to triple figures.
Clarke led with 73 runs and opener Jaques scored 51, his second half century of the match.
Brad Hogg slammed a quickfire 34 off 49 balls including sixes off Singh and Anil Kumble (2-102), while Brett Lee scored 12 off 20 balls when captain Ricky Ponting declared the innings.
Clarke hit four boundaries and reached his half century off 82 balls in the 63rd over with a well-placed shot through cover for two runs off offspinner Singh.
Jaques smashed five boundaries before bringing up his half century with a sweep shot off a Kumble ball in the second over after lunch.
The celebration was short lived as the opener popped a return catch to the India captain off the next ball.
After Australia slipped to 161-4, Clarke and Andrew Symonds combined to steady the innings with an 82-run, fifth-wicket partnership.
Symonds made a watchful start before unleashing a series of powerful shots, highlighted by two big sixes off Kumble and Singh, before being trapped lbw by Zaheer Khan (1-93) shortly before tea.
"It seems like once the ball gets older and a bit softer it's pretty difficult to score, so you have to be as patient as possible I guess," Clarke said.
Mike Hussey "myself and (Symonds) found the ball reverse swings a little bit, so we had to work as hard as possible to score our runs."
Khan took a battering from the Australians early before offspinner Singh took two quick wickets, having Matthew Hayden caught at long-on for 47 from 54 balls and Ponting (3) edging to Dravid at slip.
With the Ponting dismissal, Singh reached his 250th test wicket.
R.P. Singh (1-50) removed Hussey for 36 when Sachin Tendulkar got behind a fast moving thick edge at first slip to leave the Australians at 161-4.
Symonds had a lucky escape while on 7 when a scorching Khan ball scattered his stumps, prompting him to start his walk back to the pavilion.
Only moments later did he realize the delivery had been ruled a no ball and returned to the wicket to run a single.
Compounding the difficulty for India is Australia's record at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in December.
Australia has won its last eight tests at the MCG in the traditional Boxing Day slot, dating back to the 1999-2000 series against India.