Obviously, India would like to have the maximum amount of time to dismiss the opposition but they must be carful not to give Australia even the slightest chance of victory. It is a conundrum every captain is faced with when declaring and if Dhoni and his brains trust misjudge, they may live to regret it by the end of the series.
The first question MS Dhoni must answer is how many is beyond Australia’s reach. With two full days left, which equates to about 180 overs, India must get to their target as quickly as possible.
It would not have eluded Dhoni that although Australia batted very poorly in the first innings they still occupied the crease for almost four sessions. Therefore, India’s batsman must play for the team, take risks and look to score quickly with little concern about their wickets or average.
Every over that India use in their attempt to set an unachievable target is one less they have to bowl themselves to victory and with that in mind, I expect a declaration sometime in the first hour after lunch. Delay it any longer and Australia will be confident of batting out the match.
If India are truly bold they would play the first session like a T20 match and try to score somewhere between 150 and 200 allowing themselves a few overs at Katich and Hayden before the break. Dhoni understands that fortune favours the brave and this aggressive move is a possibility if Sehwag settles early and unleashes his fury.
No team in Test history has scored more than 420 to win a match in the fourth innings and considering Australia’s frazzled mentality they are unlikely to set any world records. Obviously, India may want a few more but anything over 500 is likely to be superfluous.
Australia will fight hard in the field to restrict the scoring and I don’t expect them to be rushing through their overs.
In fact, with India 301 runs in front with all wickets in hand the score is almost irrelevant from this point on. Time is the most valuable thing and India must value it highly and spend it wisely if they are to set up the match and achieve a well deserved victory.
Later: A summary of the day’s events.