India A 63 for 2 (Agarwal 25*) and 274 need a further 199 to beat Australia A 243 and 292 (Head 87, Khawaja 40, Siraj 3-77)
Australia A edged ahead at the end of the third day, thanks to Travis Head's free-flowing 87, crucial contributions from the lower order, uneven bounce late in the day and a gifted wicket from India A. The visitors, who had begun the day on 42 for 1, added 250 to their overnight score and set India 262 for a win in the first four-dayer in Bengaluru. India A were 63 for 2 at stumps, with Mayank Agarwal and Ankit Bawne unbeaten on 25 and 6 respectively.
Early in the day, Australia were forced to haul the momentum back once again after a middle-order slide. Usman Khawaja and Head, the overnight batsmen, were both in good touch through the morning session. In the opening 30 minutes, they were aggressive against seamer Navdeep Saini, picking up four boundaries off him in two overs and taking him out of the attack. Both left-handers were confident with their footwork, and neither of India's two frontline spinners were able to trouble them as they extended their second-wicket stand to 81.
Once again, the onus was on Mohammed Siraj to produce the breakthrough, and when he straightened one past Khawaja's outside edge to hit off stump, the fast bowler completed his second ten-wicket haul in three first-class games.
The wicket opened India up to a fragile Australian middle order comprising Peter Handscomb and Mitchell Marsh, and both the No. 4 and No. 5 batsmen were dismissed without getting past single-digit scores. Handscomb was out caught at slip, though it wasn't clear whether his frustration was because he hadn't got glove on it or because he has now made fewer than ten in five of his last six first-class innings.
Marsh made his frustration clear, too, after being given run-out by the square-leg umpire, although it didn't appear like he had a lot going his way during that sequence. Head had pushed the ball gently to the right of cover and Marsh had called through for a run he never looked like having the legs for. His big strides were languid, but he didn't put in a dive in the end as wicketkeeper Srikar Bharat collected Shreyas Iyer's throw and whipped the bails off.
At 134 for 4, Marnus Labuschagne set out to perform yet another rescue act. Head was the more confident batsman during the 50-run stand for the fifth wicket, complementing his positive front-foot play with equal confidence off the back foot. On a slow track, the Indian spinners didn't find too much bounce, and every time Head got onto the back foot for the cut, he had time to pick off runs on either side of sweeper cover.
But it was exactly that sense of security that Gowtham sought to exploit when he pushed an arm ball through from around the wicket and Head, opening up his stumps for the cut again, was cramped by the extra pace, falling for 87. The top-order batsman, who is pushing for Test selection, is now without a century in 16 first-class innings.
Unlike the first two days, reverse-swing wasn't a feature at all on the third day, and the first, marginal signs of it came in the 61st over of the day. This meant the lower order, led first by Labuschagne, and then by Michael Neser, threw their bats around and added 108 for the last five wickets to push the lead past 200, a score that India A batsman Bawne had said they would be comfortable chasing.
Left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav was inconsistent again, although the ploy to get Labuschagne driving against the turn from around the wicket was smartly executed by pushing long-off and cover back.
With momentum from their batting exploits and a cloudy period at the start of the fourth innings, Australia's bowlers came in at full tilt against India's new opening pair. But Abhimanyu Easwaran, who replaced R Samarth as Mayank Agarwal's opening partner, was trapped plumb in front by Chris Tremain in the third over as he tried to navigate the up-and-down nature of the pitch from the Pavilion End.
India A captain Iyer then came in at No. 3 and unleashed some glorious strokes, driving Tremain for four wide of mid-off, and then flicking him over square leg for six. In the next over, he clubbed Jon Holland for two sixes over the leg side. But his innings was short-lived. He jumped down the track to the first ball of the spinner's next over, despite a spread-out field, and injudiciously swiped a catch to long-off.