NAGPUR // India lead Australia by 86 runs at stumps on the third day of the series-deciding fourth Test today after dismissing the visitors for 355. India ended at 0-0 after Virender Sehwag safely negotiated one over. The off-spinner Harbhajan Singh earlier led a tight Indian bowling performance to counter the hardworking efforts of Michael Hussey and opener Simon Katich. Australia trail 1-0 in the four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
Hussey edged the visitors closer to India's 441 with a 229-ball knock of 90 after Katich added his fifth Test century, but the hosts held the upper hand. Australia started well in their chase with Hussey and Katich dragging the team slowly to 229 for 2 before India fought back and regained control with three wickets in the middle session. The all-rounder Cameron White steered a lower-order fightback with 46, but the end of the innings came when he holed out to deep mid-on off Harbhajan Singh and Mitchell Johnson followed in a similar manner.
Harbhajan finished with figures of 3-94 while the leg-spinner Amit Mishra collected 2-58. India, needing only a draw in this match to claim the series, employed defensive tactics for their pacemen throughout the day and slowly wore down the batsmen. Australia scored just 42 runs in the morning session for the loss of Katich, managed 49 between lunch and tea, and collected another 75 before the innings ended shortly before stumps.
Hussey, who started the day on 45, sweated over his 12th Test half-century and narrowly missed reaching three figures when he was run out by a brilliant piece of fielding from rookie Murali Vijay. Hussey drove Harbhajan hard off the back foot, but Vijay intercepted the shot at silly point and threw it back to the wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who pushed the ball on to the stumps. Australia's situation worsened when Shane Watson (2) was bowled two overs later when he attempted to defend against Harbhajan's delivery, only for it to bounce under his bat and onto the stumps.
Watson's dismissal left Australia at 266-6 before Brad Haddin and White combined for 52 valuable runs for the seventh wicket. Haddin padded up to a big-turning leg-spinner from Mishra on 28, with the ball clipping the dangling bat on the way through to Rahul Dravid at first slip. Harbhajan created regular danger and was backed up by Ishant Sharma, who returned 2-64 from 26 overs, and Zaheer Khan (1-68).
Katich, who was dropped from the Test team in 2005, was brought back in May and his 102 from 189 balls added to his tally of 652 runs at an average of 59.27, with three centuries, over the past seven matches. Hussey and Katich resumed the third day at 189-2 and combined in an unflustered 155-run stand that gradually moved Australia closer toward matching India's score. Katich, who was dropped at first slip by Dravid on 94, was lbw to Khan to a ball swinging into the left-hander to start a slide of 4-37.
After lunch Sharma forced Michael Clarke (8) into an edge from a leg-cutter and Dhoni accepted the catch. Another problem for the tourists is the health of bowling spearhead Brett Lee, who dropped down to No. 11 due to bouts of nausea and dehydration. *AP