ADELAIDE, Australia - Virat Kohli scored his maiden test century and India's bowlers claimed some early scalps in Australia's second innings but the hosts retained their dominant position after three days of the fourth and final test at the Adelaide Oval.
Kohli's 116 was the standout innings on Thursday in another disappointing batting performance by India, which was bowled out for 272, conceding a 332-run first-innings lead. Peter Siddle took 5-49 for Australia.
India collapsed from 225-5 just before tea, losing its final five wickets for 47 runs to the second new ball.
The hosts elected not to enforce the follow-on and at stumps were 50-3 in their second innings, with an overall lead of 382 and with in-form pair Michael Clarke (9 not out) and Ricky Ponting (1 not out) to resume on day four.
After just 10 wickets had fallen across the first two days, 10 wickets fell on the third day, an early sign of pitch deterioration which would have played a role in the decision to bat again, and leave India the fourth innings.
All eyes Thursday were on Sachin Tendulkar, who could not have asked for a more benign pitch as he sought to finally score his elusive 100th international century.
But within the first hour, Tendulkar disappointed the packed Australia Day crowd and fell for 25. He has now gone a career-worst 23 innings without a century. He will likely get one more chance on this pitch in this final test, with one-dayers to follow.
Siddle (5-49) removed Tendulkar, caught at second slip by Ponting, and opener Gautham Gambhir (34), caught when fending a short ball, in the space of nine balls of the morning session.
V.V.S. Laxman was Nathan Lyon's sole scalp, caught behind after a turgid 18 runs.
Later in the day, armed with the second new ball, Siddle returned to dismiss Ravichandran Ashwin (5) and Zaheer Khan (0) in successive deliveries but Ishant Sharma denied him on the hat trick ball.
Siddle bowled a disconcertingly line and length and was richly rewarded for the effort with his fifth five-wicket haul in a 31 test career. He took his series tally to 22 wickets at an average of 17.36.
"I am pretty happy whenever I take five-for," said Siddle.
"The pressure we built up again and the way we bowled as a unit just shows ... someone is getting the reward (and today) it was me."
Siddle believes there is still plenty of time left in the test to force a result and secure a 4-0 series sweep.
"Adelaide is one pitch you don't want to bat last. It's about consuming some time and get some runs, and try and bat them out of the game. It's already showing early signs of deterioration. We're in a very good position."
Swing bowler Ben Hilfenhaus complemented Siddle's pace with 3-62 and took his series tally to 26 wickets at 16.53.
Kohli, the 23-year-old from Delhi, scored India's first hundred of the series. He showed great maturity and responsibility in his near four-hour innings that was crowned with a pulled six over midwicket and 11 fours.
Resuming on 122-5 after lunch Kohli and stand-in wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha (35) got on top of the Australian bowling in the post-lunch session — a rarity for the visitors — only for Saha to be out to the last ball before tea, shouldering arms and being bowled by Ryan Harris.
Siddle then swiftly dispatched the tail, aside from a handy ninth-wicket stand between Kholi and Sharma, who put on 33 at better than a run per minute. Tempers flared between the Indian pair and Hilfenhaus — Kohli claimed he was sledged — before the umpires intervened.
Kohli finally fell trapped lbw by Hilfenhaus and left to a standing ovation from a record 35,081 single day crowd.
"When I got my hundred I was on cloud nine," said Kohli. "As a young kid and playing cricket you dream of playing for your country and a test century. The first one is the most special. I am really, really happy."
Kohli, a popular and successful batsman in one-day cricket with eight hundreds, hopes to establish himself as a test player. He repaid the selectors for persisting with him despite his failures in the first two tests in Melbourne and Sydney.
"I always wanted to be a successful tesrt cricketer for India and hopefully this will be the start of that journey."
Kholi said he believed in playing the game hard, and that was evident in his confrontation with Hilfenhaus.
"Hilfenhaus said something to me that was totally unneccessary. I can't repeat what he said in the press conference.
"I gave it back to him ... I like to give it back, that's how I play my cricket. At the end of the day I am pretty happy with what I did."
Kohli, who was fined by the International Cricket Council for a rude gesture at the fans in Sydney, said he has responded in the best possible style.
"To give it back verbally and with a hundred is even better. We don't go out there to take anything from anyone. We're international cricketers as well. It's much more satisfying.
Kohli said the Australians sledge when they get frustrated. " ... it was hot out there. They were constantly sledging to break our concentration."