Virat Kohli defied Australia on Saturday to give India hope of an extraordinary win in what could be a grandstand finish to the World Test Championship (WTC) final at The Oval.

India were 164-3 at stumps, still needing a further 280 runs to reach what would be a record-breaking total of 444 on Sunday’s scheduled fifth and final day.

Star batsman Kohli, however, was 44 not out, while Ajinkya Rahane was unbeaten on 20 after he had already marked his first Test in over a year by top-scoring with 89 in India’s first-innings 296.

India have won their last four series against Australia but a victory in south London might just surpass even those wins.

The scale of India’s task was emphasised, however, by the fact that only four teams in 146 years of Test cricket have made more than 400 to win in the fourth innings, with the West Indies’ 418-7 against Australia at St John’s in 2003 the highest such total.

Nevertheless India paceman Mohammed Shami, said after the match: “A hundred per cent everyone believes that tomorrow we will win the match, because we have always fought. We perform well around the world … It doesn’t matter if it’s Sydney or Brisbane, we are playing here.”

Australia, by contrast, require just seven more wickets on Sunday to win the only major global men’s trophy to have so far eluded them and ensure they head into next week’s Ashes opener against England at Edgbaston in buoyant mood.

India captain Rohit Sharma set the initial tone for a daunting chase with several boundaries, including a pulled six off left-arm quick Mitchell Starc.

But on the stroke of tea, opening partner Shubman Gill fell to a controversial catch when Cameron Green, who had taken an undisputed blinder in the first innings to remove Rahane, dived low to his left following an edge off Scott Boland.

The decision was referred by the on-field umpires to TV official Richard Kettleborough.

And with the ‘soft signal’ recently abolished, there was no on-field guidance for Kettleborough to follow in determining if the ball had brushed the turf after Green had grabbed hold.

‘Knew I caught it’

Kettleborough eventually ruled in Australia’s favour, prompting chants of “cheats, cheats, cheats” from the massed ranks of India fans in a crowd of nearly 25,000 when the decision was flashed up on The Oval’s giant screens.

“I knew I caught it straight away,” Green told the BBC. “I know it looks a bit weird but I knew straight away I caught it.”

Shami, however, said the decision had been rushed.

“We could have taken some time, it’s the World Test Championship final, not a normal match that you let go,” insisted Shami. “It should have been checked better, zoomed in, but it’s okay, it’s part of the game.”

Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara continued to attack Australia’s quicks as India looked to go one better after losing the inaugural 2021 WTC final to New Zealand in Southampton.

Spin, however, proved Rohit’s undoing on a wearing pitch when he missed an attempted sweep against Nathan Lyon, bowling from around the wicket, with the batsman lbw for 43 off 60 balls.

India lost another wicket without adding another run when Pujara, renowned as a patient accumulator of runs, attempted an extravagant upper-cut off Australia captain Pat Cummins on 27 only to guide a simple catch to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.

But Kohli regained the initiative for India by clipping and driving Starc for boundaries greeted by chants of “Kohli, Kohli, Kohli” from his adoring fans in the stands.

Earlier, Australia made 270-8 in their second innings before Cummins declared.

Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who had accounted for first-innings century-makers Steve Smith and Travis Head on Friday, removed Green for 25 in a haul of 3-58.

But Carey, missed in the slips on 41, played Pujara well during his innings top-score of 66 not out and added a valuable 93 for the seventh wicket with the hard-hitting Starc (41).

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