ADELAIDE, Australia - India slid toward another humiliating innings defeat as its top order capitulated again on Friday, putting Australia just four wickets away from winning the fourth test and completing a series sweep.
At stumps on the fourth day at Adelaide Oval, India slumped to 166-6 chasing a 500-run victory target.
Australia claimed two wickets just before stumps, removing the last of the specialist batsmen, VVS Laxman and first-innings century-maker Virat Kohli to a brilliant run out.
Australia declared its second innings on 167-5 shortly after lunch, after having established a 332-run lead on the first innings.
India's experienced batsmen could not find the balance between aggression and caution, and surrendered meekly on a pitch that was still a good one for batting.
A defeat here — its eighth in as many overseas tests and most of them by big margins — will add to pressure on the India selectors to overhaul the veteran batting lineup.
Australia complemented its brilliant batting performance with some penetrating bowling and brilliant fielding. The superb throw by Ben Hilfenhaus to run out Kohli in the penultimate over of the day was the day's standout play.
The giant run chase began with acting captain Virender Sehwag typically attacking despite his fellow opener Gautam Gambhir being dismissed early, caught behind off Ryan Harris for 3.
Sehwag struck 62 off 53 balls with 12 fours, but his aggression was also his downfall, as he top-edged a Nathan Lyon delivery to Ricky Ponting at extra cover. It was a reckless shot off a full toss — the second time he'd fallen to the delivery in the test.
India was 92-2 at tea, and soon after lost Rahul Dravid (25), caught by Mike Hussey at gully off a loose drive to a Harris delivery.
Sachin Tendulkar failed to score his elusive 100th international century. He was caught by Ed Cowan at short leg for 13 off the bowling of spinner Nathan Lyon (3-57), and was given a standing ovation on his way off the field. At age 38, it was very likely he will not play another test in Australia.
Tendulkar has gone 22 innings without a test century — his longest spell without a test hundred in his 188-test career. He scored his last and 51st test century against South Africa at Newlands, Cape Town in January 2011.
Tendulkar has managed 287 runs at an average of 35.87 in this series, including two half centuries.
"It has been an absolute privilege getting him (Tendulkar) out," Lyon said after his best figures of the series. "Having said that, there is still another four wickets to go, so job's not done as far as we're concerned.
"It's just good to be able to contribute to hopefully a team victory."
Lyon was playing his first test on his state's home ground and praised the local curators for the pitch.
"There has been some wickets and runs scored ... we are starting to see some natural variation ... some spin and the ball starting to keep low. It's been a good test match wicket."
Earlier, Ponting continued on from his first innings 221 by top scoring with an unbeaten 60. He gave a chance when on 45, but Dravid failed to latch on to a miscued pull at square leg.
Ponting has revived his test career with a series aggregate of 544 runs at an average of 108.80. It is the fifth time he has amassed over 500 runs in a test series, which puts him behind only Don Bradman's record seven for Australia.
Ponting and captain Michael Clarke hit the home side out of a spot of trouble at 40-3, and ensured the game was beyond India's grasp.
Clarke (37) was trapped lbw by swing bowler Umesh Yadav, and finished his first home series as captain with 626 runs at an average of 125.20. His series aggregate is the third highest for Australia against India — behind Bradman's 715 runs in five tests in 1947-48, and Ponting's 706 in fours tests in 2003-04, all in Australia.
The series has been a surprisingly and disappointingly one-sided affair, but India offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin bristled during the post-play press conference when the word embarrassing was used to describe India's performance.
"You need to rephrase the question," Ashwin said. "Embarrassment is really not the right word. Nobody has done anything faulty ... we have not fooled or cheated anybody.
"We are extremely disappointed. There is no need for embarrassment. It's a sport, and we've competed hard. It's not like we've just chucked it away. We've given it everything we have.
"As a bunch of youngsters we take as much learning as possible from this series and walk away with our heads held high."