Australia’s first innings was when it all started to go wrong in Ranchi, according to coach Darren Lehmann.
Lehmann’s side must defuse the threat of India spinner Ravindra Jadeja on day five if they are to salvage a draw from the third Test.
Jadeja claimed both wickets to fall in the 7.2 overs that India delivered late on day four, clean bowling vice-captain David Warner and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon.
Steve Smith’s side will resume their second innings at 2-23 on Monday, still trailing by 129 runs. Left-arm spinner Jadeja will make life particularly difficult for Australia’s left-handers because of a rough patch that will ensure plenty of balls misbehave.
Lehmann acknowledged it would be an immense challenge for his side to keep the series level at 1-1 ahead of the Dharamsala decider that starts on Saturday.
The man who was part of Australia’s drought-breaking 2004 series win in India lamented the fact they were in such a position at all.
Lehmann apportioned blame not to an attack that toiled for 210 overs but a batting order that managed 451 in the first innings after Smith won the toss and was stranded on 178 not out.
“If anything it (the workload of the bowlers) heightens our first innings where we needed to bat a little bit longer,” Lehmann said.
“It’s 500, 550 on those sort of wickets isn’t it? Bat for 150 overs plus.
“We fell short by 50, 60 runs and 15 or 20 overs. That’s the challenge for the group to get there and make sure when they’re batting in those scenarios they go big, bigger.
“That was the same issue with England (when they toured India recently and failed to win a Test).
“Now we find ourselves in a position where we’ve got to fight hard on the last day to save the game.”
Australia put down a couple of chances on day four, with Matthew Wade’s drop of Wriddhiman Saha on 51 by far the most costly.
“Wadey kept really well on the whole … he’ll have a look at it and review it and see where he went wrong,” Lehmann said.
“He’s been excellent throughout the whole series on difficult wickets.”