Adelaide: India fired their best shot after stumps on Saturday, accusing Australia of batting "scared" on the third day of the fourth Test when the hosts ground out an unspectacular innings that dented the visitors' victory ambitions.
Australia reached 322-3 by stumps in reply to India's 526, adding a cautious 260 runs for the loss of three wickets in the day. A draw would be enough for Australia to win the series, and India are running out of time to bowl them out twice and square the series 2-2.
"They are not going to win so they are scared and playing very defensive," India opening batsman Virender Sehwag said at the close of play.
"It was a very good day for India. It was a good performance by our bowlers. On a flat track, to restrict them to 260-3 was a very good effort."
Sehwag's comments smacked of the antagonism that has permeated the series. He was quick to point out Ponting (79 not out) had not reached a half-century in the first three Tests of the series and claimed the Australian captain sacrificed the team's run-rate in order to correct that shortcoming.
Australia managed only 67 runs from 27 overs in the afternoon session and 97 runs from 33 overs in the final session.
Ponting took 197 minutes to reach his half-century and batted more than four hours for his 79 runs by the close.
"We are in a positive mind," Sehwag said.
"We will try to walk out tomorrow and get them out quickly and play positively."
Australia's total was underpinned by an innings of 103 by opener Matthew Hayden - his third century in five innings in the series.
Hayden moved to outright third on the list of Australian Test century makers with his hundred, taking his place behind Ponting and Steve Waugh.
He moved out of a third-place tie with the great Sir Donald Bradman whose 29 centuries in 52 Tests are iconic figures in Australian cricket.
Hayden put on 159 for the opening wicket with Phil Jaques (60) to provide Australia with a strong platform. Ponting and Michael Clarke (37 not out) built on that foundation and, with more effort than ease, added 81 in an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership ahead of stumps.
Ponting's half-century was his 40th in tests and sixth against India.
India used seven bowlers on Saturday in the search for breakthroughs and to compensate for the loss of opening bowler RP Singh who is out of action for two weeks after suffering a hamstring tear.
Hayden made centuries in the first and second Tests, won by Australia at Melbourne and Sydney, but missed the third Test at Perth through injury.
His century was his 30th in 94 Tests and his sixth in 14 Tests against India. He has now scored 406 runs in five innings in this series with three centuries and an average in excess of 80.
Hayden was undone after spending 273 minutes at the crease, facing 200 balls and preserving his wicket through 64 overs, by a superb delivery from Ishant Sharma which arced into the left-hander from outside off stump and penetrated his guard.
The ability of the right-armer Sharma, 19, to swing a ball 64 overs old into the left-handed Hayden and to beat his rigid defence stamped the young Indian swing bowler as a special talent.
The Hayden wicket was only his fourth of the series, captured at a cost of 68 runs apiece, but Sharma showed an ability in Perth and again at Adelaide to trouble the Australian top order, even in the most favourable batting conditions.
Ponting's arrival on the dismissal of Jaques - bowled by Anil Kumble - prompted India to immediately recall Harbhajan Singh to the bowling crease.
Harbhajan has dismissed Ponting three times in the series so far, but the Australian captain played his off breaks with more aptitude on Saturday.
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