10 Dec 2018

'Whipping boy' Australia's best hope

5:36 am on 10 December 2018

Australian cricket's whipping boy Shaun Marsh shapes as his side's best hope of winning the first Test against India which history - and conventional wisdom - suggests is near-impossible.

Australia's Shaun Marsh plays a shot.

Australia's Shaun Marsh plays a shot. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Australia, set an imposing target of 323 at Adelaide Oval, reached 4-104 at stumps on day four.

Marsh is unbeaten on 31 from 92 balls, having occupied the crease for more time than any other batsman in Australia's second innings, while Travis Head is 11 not out.

Marsh has history when it comes to resisting India, having batted out 62 overs on day five to help secure a draw last year in Ranchi.

The 35-year-old is also likely to draw confidence from negotiating Sunday's final session plus last month's Sheffield Shield knock of 163 not out in Adelaide, where he helped Western Australia to overhaul a target of 313.

But the mountain confronting the much-maligned veteran on Monday is significantly more confronting for several reasons, with Australia still 219 runs away from a record-breaking victory after suffering a concerning collapse of 4-56.

The highest-successful run chase in an Adelaide Test is Australia's 6-315, achieved in 1902 against England, while no side has hunted down more than 236 at the venue since West Indies in 1982.

India's prospects of recording their first Test win in Australia since 2008, and their maiden Test series win in Australia, were already strong when resuming on Sunday at 3-151.

They were enhanced by first-inning centurion Cheteshwar Pujara, who top-scored again with 71 to make it 11 hours at the crease in the low-scoring contest.

Nathan Lyon grabbed 6-122 as India posted a second-innings total of 307.

Loose strokes from Marcus Harris, Usman Khawaja and Peter Handscomb served as the latest reminder of Australia's reliance on Steve Smith and David Warner in recent years.

The slump started when Aaron Finch ended the post-lunch session, caught at bat-pad for 11.

Replays suggested the ball didn't flick the gloves, meaning Finch would have been reprieved if he had reviewed.

Finch had already referred a lbw verdict in the first over of the innings, only avoiding the ignominy of a pair because replays showed Ishant Sharma delivered a no-ball.