India made a disastrous start to their run chase against Australia in the second Test in Perth on Monday, losing two early wickets on a fast deteriorating pitch.
Set 287 to win after Australia were dismissed for 243 in their second innings, India were 15 for two at tea, still needing another 272 to go two up in the series.
Murali Vijay was on six, with captain Virat Kohli yet to score after making a first innings century.
Kohli, who exchanged words with Australian captain Tim Paine at the conclusion of the third day’s play, was greeted to the wicket by a 145kph bouncer from Josh Hazlewood.
Opener KL Rahul didn’t last long, falling to the fourth ball of the innings from Mitchell Starc for a duck.
– Variable bounce –
Rahul attempted to pull the bat away and only succeeded in getting an inside edge onto his stumps.
The broad bat of Cheteshwar Pujara shaped as a stumbling block for Australia, but he feathered a short delivery from Hazlewood on four as India slumped to 13 for two.
Worryingly for the Indians, batting appeared to have become very difficult on a lively pitch offering variable bounce.
Australian number eight Pat Cummins was the chief victim of the pitch gremlins after lunch, when he was clean bowled for one by a Jasprit Bumrah delivery that kept very low off the wicket.
The session between lunch and tea saw eight wickets fall for just 68 runs.
Australia’s last six wickets added just 51, at one stage losing 5-15 until last pair Starc (14) and Hazlewood (17 not out) chanced their arms to add 36 valuable runs.
The home team had resumed at 190 for four after lunch, but paceman Mohammed Shami tore through their tail, removing Usman Khawaja (72) and Tim Paine (37) with sharply rising deliveries.
Shami finished with career-best figures of 6-56.
The action of the second session was a far cry from the start of the day, with overnight batsman Khawaja and Paine keeping the Indian pacemen at bay until lunch.
Against some probing bowling from the Indian pace attack, the Australians played and missed regularly.
It was old school Test cricket — scoring was slow with just 58 runs added in the session as India were unable to claim a wicket.
Khawaja had a definite slice of luck on 42, when he would have been run out by a direct hit by Bumrah.
Having looked completely out of form in his three previous innings in the series, the left-hander was rewarded for his perseverance against some quality bowling when he finally reached his half-century from the 155th ball he faced, pushing Ishant Sharma through mid-wicket for three.