Australia teeter on brink after India set them 399 to win

Photo: AFP

Australia were teetering on the brink of defeat in the third Test on Saturday, losing five wickets in what looked like mission impossible after India declared and set them a massive 399 to win.

After early morning drizzle, India started an overcast fourth day in Melbourne with a 346-run lead and with five wickets in hand on a wearing pitch becoming increasingly difficult to bat on.

Skipper Virat Kohli declared at 106 for eight, with Australia chasing what would be a record fourth innings total at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The previous biggest successful run chase at the ground came in 1928, when England made 332 for seven to beat the hosts.

India still have a day in hand to get the job done as they zero in on a first-ever series win Down Under. There is just the Sydney Test next week to go, with the series tied 1-1.

At tea, the home team had a mountain to climb on 138 for five with Travis Head not out 29 and skipper Tim Paine on one.

Their task was made harder when Aaron Finch again flopped, throwing his role as a Test opener under ever more scrutiny with speculation that he either has to drop down the order in Sydney or make way for someone else.

He played a poor shot to pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah - who snared six wickets in the first innings - and was caught by Kohli for three.

Fellow opener Marcus Harris followed him back to the pavilion for 13, getting an inside edge from spinner Ravindra Jadeja to Mayank Agarwal close in.

Usman Khawaja was the next to go after a lively 33, trapped lbw by Mohammed Shami. He chose to review the decision with the ball-tracking technology showing it clearly hitting the off stump.

When Shaun Marsh was also trapped leg before by Bumrah for a brisk 44 and his brother Mitch fell for 10, Australia's faint survival hopes were fading fast.

Pat Cummins had brought the game back to life late Friday by grabbing four wickets in a devastating spell after his team were skittled for just 151 in reply to India's first innings 443 for seven declared.

Debutant opener Agarwal, who had witnessed the carnage from the other end, showed early aggression on Saturday when they resumed, rushing down the pitch to smack spinner Nathan Lyon for two big sixes.

But he was no match for Cummins who was again Australia's saviour when a low delivery ricocheted off the bat onto the stumps and he was out for 42.

It was Cummins' third five-wicket haul in his 17 Tests - and he achieved the feat in just nine overs for 14 runs.

Not satisfied, he then had Jadeja caught at short point by Khawaja for five to give him career-best figures of 6-27 off 11 overs.

When Rishabh Pant fell to Josh Hazlewood for 33, Kohli made the declaration.

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