|Parthiv Patel defends one en route to his defiants 46 against Australia in Bangalore on Friday. (Reuters)
Bangalore: The odd piece may not have fit perfectly but, otherwise, the first Test jigsaw has been in place for Australia. In front by 355 with six wickets and two days remaining, the Adam Gilchrists will be excused if they unwind with an extra pint.
Friday wasn't at all bad for Team India, despite the constant pressure, but so much ground was conceded on the first two days that the bottomline had to dishearten. Crush, in fact.
'At least another 100 runs and a minimum of four-and-half sessions to bowl out India is what we're aiming at,' revealed senior pro Glenn McGrath, who has himself played a handsome role (four for 55) in getting Australia into a position of such comfort.
Australia, of course, had the option of exercising the follow-on, having kept India 228 adrift of their first innings' 474, but chose not to for more than one reason.
According to McGrath, the Eden-factor wasn't at the back of their mind, but two things did influence: He and fellow-quicks were tired, after bowling in excess of 61 overs, and the Matthew Haydens didn't fancy batting last on a wicket set to deteriorate.
'I'm not surprised at what the Australians intend to do... However, everything isn't over for us and I draw much strength from our (Day-III) performance,' coach John Wright told The Telegraph.
Interacting briefly on returning to the hotel, he added: 'I'm sure the boys are going to gain in confidence... We were very disciplined ' both with bat and ball ' and things should look up...'
Asked if he favoured an unscheduled meeting later in the evening, Wright replied: 'No... I want the boys to stay totally relaxed before what will be a big day... But, yes, there's going to be something to say in the morning...'
Thanks to Parthiv Patel, Irfan Pathan and Anil Kumble's determination, the Indian innings extended till 83 minutes after lunch, by when the deficit had been narrowed to something less humiliating.
Actually, the lower order scored a point by forcing stand-in captain Gilchrist to call for the second new ball (82nd over). It's only then that resistance ended.
Moreover, it could have been somewhat different had Pathan not got an atrocious decision from Billy Bowden. He was given caught-behind even though the bat made no contact with the leather.
Pathan, marked as an allrounder-in-the-making, later remarked he was 'unlucky.'
While Pathan went for 31 (196 minutes), Patel was around for over three-and-half hours in compiling 46. Clearly, the pair ' which added 60 for the seventh-wicket ' must have embarrassed a clutch of specialists.
Kumble too made a contribution (26).
Patel's innings stood out and one won't be surprised if he comes into contention as Virender Sehwag's partner for the second Test of this TVS-sponsored series, beginning in Chennai on Thursday.
'Well, I didn't have a choice... Kuch bhi marne ko nahin mila, so I had to keep defending... It was important to stick there and I did my best,' he said, talking exclusively.
Effectively launching their second innings on 228 without loss, the Australians lost Justin Langer to another incoming beauty from Pathan in over No. 1 itself.
Hayden and Simon Katich then began a neat repair job, but the former found himself short of the crease, with the total on 65, and Katich followed soon enough.
Vice-captain Darren Lehmann, obviously out of form, went next (104 for four) and, briefly, the Indians were right on top. A couple of wickets more and there's no saying how the day would have ended.
As it turned out, the underrated Damien Martyn and dashing debutant Michael Clarke (who got that brilliant 151 in the first innings) stood firm in the last 42 minutes, allowing a 127 for four finish.
Besides being tight with line and length, the Indians will (on the fourth morning) have to ensure their body-language doesn't facilitate Australia's progress.
The ask, mind you, is of Himalayan proportions.
No more than 30 minutes
Meanwhile, Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle has confirmed play can't be extended beyond 30 minutes on any of the first four days even if 90 overs haven't been completed. On Thursday, for example, the Australians lost four overs.