Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Peter Handscomb scored an unbeaten 72 and Shaun Marsh made a crucial 53 as Australia fought with all their might to fend off India on the final day in Ranchi in order to ensure the third Test ended as a draw.
With the Baggy Greens having kept India at bay by batting out the entire day, it kept them alive in the four-Test series, which currently stands at 1-1 going into the fourth and final Test in Dharamsala.
Beginning the day on 23/2, Australia lost opener Matt Renshaw early on for 15 when he was trapped lbw off the bowling of Ishant Sharma for 15.
Captain Steve Smith fell shortly after for 21, but Handscomb and Marsh refused to allow India to run through their side’s batting line-up and fought valiantly by putting together a 124-run partnership, during which both batsmen surpassed their half-centuries.
But, not long after bringing up his fifty, Marsh was on his way back to the pavilion after being removed by Ravindra Jadeja for 53 off 197 balls, which included seven boundaries.
Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
With the day drawing to a close, Ravichandran Ashwin took out Glenn Maxwell for just two runs, but Handscomb and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade saw out the remaining overs and guided Australia to 204/6 before the match ended as a draw.
Handscomb finished on 72 off 200 balls, which included seven boundaries, while Wade remained undefeated on nine off 16 deliveries, which included two boundaries.
Jadeja was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets, while Ishant and Ashwin claimed one wicket each.
India captain Virat Kohli was gutted not to win, and said: “We got ourselves into a very good position. Losing the toss here was never easy. Not being able to take the field and watching the opposition get big runs was difficult. But we batted beautifully. KL and M Vijay, but the partnership between Saha and Pujara is the best I have seen. We didn’t expect a 150 lead.
“Yesterday two wickets, we thought we had a good chance, but credit to the two batsmen, they batted really well. Guys want to push the barrier, their physical limits, their mental toughness. Credit to Australia for playing out the draw, but we played ourselves into a position where we could win.
“When you play only one format, you are always extra determined to make it count. Pujara is very motivated, and he is really good at Test batting. This is the best I have watched him bat. Saha did it in West Indies, he did it in Kolkata as well, and here under pressure, he really stood up. You feel happy for him because he is such a wonderful guy. Always smiling, always happy for whoever achieves anything.
“I don’t think it was the wicket, it was the ball, soft, not doing much. I don’t know about the lot of balls. Jadeja is unbelievable. He is gun in the field too. I have never seen anyone bowl so economically for so long ever. Dharamsala, no different from what I have done here. We have given our best here, and as long as we keep doing that, I am sure we will get ourselves into winning positions.”
Smith was relieved to have drawn the match, and said: “A pretty good Test. Proud of the way the boys stuck it out. That’s what we want to be. Resilient. They played beautifully today. They didn’t look like they would get out for a while. It was crucial for us, at such an important time.
“It was important to score big first-innings run, we left ourselves a bit short there. 450 was not enough to win this match. Maxwell was sensational. That’s the way we want him to play. Pat Cummins, in his first game in a very long time, he bowled beautifully. Not too often you spend 210 overs in the field. It was a long two days. The boys really dug deep. I am really proud. Massive game in Dharamsala, can’t wait to get there.”
India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara was named Man of the Match for scoring 202, and said: “I think it was much-needed for the team. When Wriddhi came in, we had a chat and we needed a big partnership. I never thought I would play so many balls, but once I was in I knew I had to bat long to reach close to their total. I do get tempted to hit in the air, but you have to look at the bigger picture. There was a situation when we couldn’t afford to lose another wicket, so I had to restrict myself.
“It is natural. I don’t think I need any external motivation. They scored 450, to come back, go past that total, and put them under such pressure, but Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb batted really well. You get fatigued, but I have been working hard on my fitness, careful with my diet, and hoping to recover soon for the big Test coming up.”