| Shane Warne is congratulated by teammates after scalping V.V.S. Laxman in Bangalore on Saturday. (Reuters)
Bangalore: The die was cast long before India's second innings started and, if somebody still harboured hopes, Billy Bowden ' who should be in a circus and not the Elite umpires' panel ' ended that with an executioner's job on Virender Sehwag.
One isn't suggesting India would otherwise have reached 457, setting a record and taking a 1-0 lead in this TVS-sponsored series, but a sound start on Saturday afternoon would have encouraged thoughts of a face-salvaging draw.
However, with Sehwag adjudged leg-before to Glenn McGrath despite a thick inside edge, the innings got off to a terrible launch (one for one) and the pressure straightaway increased by many degrees.
If anything, an out-of-form batsman needs luck, not injustice.
Sehwag, incidentally, is in trouble with (chief) Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle for directing a polite word or two at Bowden on his walk back. The mandatory hearing is over, for a Level 2 offence, and Madugalle's verdict awaited.
Given the evidence on television, Sehwag must have pleaded guilty. The maximum punishment entails a one-Test ban. It's a pity, though, the umpires get assessed annually and not every three-six months.
[On Friday, it may be recalled, New Zealander Bowden had erred in giving Irfan Pathan out ' again, at a critical moment, mind you.]
It also didn't help that V.V.S. Laxman got a questionable decision (from Steve Bucknor) and, before that, captain Sourav Ganguly, mentally prepared to counter chin-music, got run out less than half-a-dozen overs after the Sehwag episode.
The Sourav-Rahul Dravid mix-up was so pathetic (given the need of the hour) that even rookies would be embarrassed if they featured in something similar.
Sourav played McGrath to Michael Kasprowicz and took off like Carl Lewis used to two decades ago. Dravid initially responded, before stopping dead. It was too late for an infuriated Sourav to head anywhere but the dressing room.
Add Akash Chopra again failing and Yuvraj Singh managing 27 before another poor shot and the team had to be in tatters. Of course, Dravid is at the crease (47 not out in 205 minutes, 144 deliveries, 8x4), but he can only delay the inevitable.
Actually, our much-vaunted batting has been exposed on multiple fronts: Technique, grit, application... It's time to worry big.
The Dravids, by the way, will be without the moral support of consultant Sunil Gavaskar. According to The Telegraph's sources, the icon left Bangalore early on the fourth afternoon and, so, didn't watch disaster unfolding in person.
Talking facts and figures, the Indians are 352 short of the target; the Australians just require four wickets.
The Chinnaswamy Stadium is going to be packed on the final day ' over 30,000 turned up on Saturday itself ' but even impassioned support won't help.
After all, versus McGrath and Co. you need to quickly seize the initiative, or else, they swallow you twice over. Not for the first time, McGrath took to stumps with an incredible analysis: 12-8-9-2.
'I can't put a time on when this match will end, but I'm very pleased with the way the script has turned out... Our top-order hasn't been up to it but, otherwise, I've got no complaints,' remarked coach John Buchanan.
Candid as ever, he acknowledged that winning the toss made the biggest difference: 'Getting 474 in the first innings was important... I'm sure the mindset of the Indians would have been different had we managed only 274...'
Buchanan, however, insisted he wasn't 'concerned' by another rich Harbhajan Singh haul ' 11 for 224. Sadly, with India heading for a huge defeat, hardly anybody is going to recall the off-spinner's commendable effort.
Often, as the ball turned, stopped or jumped, the Australians were clueless against the 'Turbanator'. Three years on, the mystique remains.
Day-IV began with Australia 127 for four and the visitors' second innings continued till 41 minutes after lunch. They were under pressure and Chopra, at short leg, was outstanding. Harbhajan, in his comeback Test, took six for 78 (adding to the five for 146).
Sourav would have had his reasons, but he didn't begin with Pathan at one end ' the quick was introduced as late as the 25th over of the morning.
Not surprisingly, there was some 'chirping' between the hosts and the Australians. More of that may follow in the remaining three Tests.
Meanwhile, though the second Test (in Chennai) is drawing closer each day, maestro Sachin Tendulkar is yet to resume nets. Owing to a tennis elbow, he has been off cricket from mid August.
Warne now on 531
Shane Warne will take to the final day on 531 wickets, just one adrift of world record-holder Muttiah Muralidharan. Sixteen years ago, in this very city, Richard Hadlee had overtaken the then No.1, Ian Botham.