Australia’s Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb turned back the clock by strapping themselves to a crumbling fifth day pitch and denied India a series-leading victory with a 124-run partnership, forcing the third Test into a hard-fought draw.The series is tied 1-1. (DAY 5 BLOG)
Batting for 374 balls and close to four hours for the fifth wicket partnership, the pair thwarted different Indian bowling combinations on a pitch that offered turn but was still good for batting. (DAY 5 SCORECARD)
India still dealt two quick blows after their match-defining partnership came to an end, but the mandatory overs had already begun by then, leaving the hosts without enough time to extricate a result.
Aussies hold firm
In the end, Australia batted 100 overs to finish on 204/6 before India captain Virat Kohli decided to settle for a draw not many would have imagined at the start of the day when the tourists were trailing by 129 runs. In the end, the visitors were ahead by 52 runs when play was called off.
Australia doggedly batted out 20 overs in the morning session before the dismissals of opener Matt Renshaw and captain Steve Smith in the space of four deliveries put them in a spot of bother. The duo looked in no discomfort till Renshaw needled Ishant Sharma by pulling out just when he was about to bowl. Irked, Sharma bowled a couple of short ones and brought in a bat-pad only to trap Renshaw leg before with a full and low delivery.
Smith bowled off rough
First ball next over by Ravindra Jadeja, Smith went for a half-hearted pad up with his arms raised, probably thinking the ball won’t turn after pitching outside leg. The ball, however, landed right in the middle of the rough to spin almost square and take the top of Smith’s off-stump, leaving him and the entire Australia dressing room in shock.
With more than two sessions to go, India looked probable winners but Handscomb and Marsh came in looking not to play into their hands. Taking a leaf out of Cheteshwar Pujara’s classic double century that had spanned five sessions, both started leaving the wide deliveries and playing only the ones coming into them.
They also kept rotating the strike without taking many risks, and that didn’t allow Jadeja or R Ashwin to settle into a rhythm against the left-right batting combination. Unless the ball landed in the rough created at the pavilion end of the pitch, the track played well. Kohli thus persisted with Jadeja from the press box end despite an unchanged spell in the morning session, with Umesh Yadav and Sharma bowling from the other end post-lunch.
Ashwin subdued again
A little subdued in this Test, Ashwin was brought on much later from the press box end before Kohli made Australia face spin from both ends as local boy MS Dhoni watched from the hospitality box. A few edges and near-catches kept India on the lookout but for large parts of their 232 minute partnership, Handscomb and Marsh looked to play the ball on its merit.
Kohli tried his luck with three reviews but not one looked promising. Perhaps he could have given Ashwin a longer stint, but Jadeja clearly looked better in this match. The last glimmer of hope too was provided by Jadeja when he extracted a loose push from Marsh that was caught at forward short leg. Ashwin had Maxwell caught off bat-pad by Murali Vijay at silly point after that, but Australia had already inched their way to safety by then.
The fourth and final Test starts in Dharamsala on March 25.