The 4th innings is the most difficult time to bat due to the wear and tear of the pitch and the fatigue set in after the first three innings. It only adds to the challenge when you are facing the best bowling attack in the world in their own backyard and do not have your best batsman in the line-up and also lose an in-form all-rounder due to injury during the match.
There have been 500 instances when a team has been set 350-plus in the 4th innings in Test cricket (not counting the current match in Sydney). It is not surprising then that only 11 times from these 500 has a team successfully chased down the target – that is how difficult it is to bat in the 4th innings. To play out time and overs is hard enough but to also score big runs in the 4th innings to win the match is a monumental task. 126 such matches have been drawn while 363 (almost 73%) have resulted in a loss for the team batting last.
India also have their name on the honour’s list. Courtesy a splendid hundred from the Little Master, Sunil Gavaskar, 85 from Mohinder Amarnath and 112 from Gundappa Viswanath, India chased down 403 and won by 6 wickets against the mighty West Indies at Port of Spain in Trinidad in 1976. There has been just one other occasion on which India has chased down a 350-plus total in the 4th innings. An attacking 83 off 68 deliveries from Virender Sehwag, 66 from Gautam Gambhir, an unbeaten 103 from Sachin Tendulkar and 85 from Yuvraj Singh helped India chase down England’s target of 387 losing just 4 wickets in Chennai in 2008.
In fact, India has a very poor record batting in the 4th innings, whenever the target has been remotely substantial. They have only chased down 12 200-plus totals in the 4th innings in their Test history. 7 of these 12 victories have been at home and only three outside the subcontinent – Port of Spain (1976), Adelaide (2003) and Dunedin (1968).
It is India’s overall record in the 4th innings that is worrying and does not inspire confidence. They have been set a target of 200-plus (home or away) 124 times in the 4th innings (not including the current SCG Test). India has won just 12 of these matches, drawn 48, tied 1 but lost as many as 63 of these matches. This basically means that India loses a little more than half the number of matches when they need 200 or more in the 4th innings.
Their record in the recent past, when set a 200-plus target in the 4th innings, is poor. They have lost 23 of the 49 times when set such a target since the 1st of January, 2000.
There is only one other occasion in which India batted for more than 100 overs (which they will need to do at the SCG tomorrow) to save a Test when set more than 400 in the 4th innings. India batted for 136 overs against the West Indies at the Eden Gardens in 1948 scoring 325 for 3.
There is also only one instance in their history when India have scored in excess of 400 against Australia in the 4th innings. Chasing 493 at the Adelaide Oval against a Packer-hit Australia in 1978, India, led by half centuries from Amarnath, Vengsarkar, Viswanath and Kirmani fought courageously and gave the home team a real scare before being bowled out for 445 in the 142nd over.
India will have to re-write history at the SCG if they have to save the Test and go to Brisbane with a chance to still win the series.