A courageous and injury-racked India yesterday pulled off a remarkable draw in a tense third Test against Australia, as they survived against the hosts’ much-vaunted bowling attack to take the series to a decider.
India resumed the fifth day on 98-2, needing a further 309 runs after being set a huge 407 to win when Australia declared their second innings at tea on Sunday on 312-6.
No team had ever bettered 288 to clinch victory in the fourth innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with Australia achieving that mark against South Africa in 2006, but India gave it a massive go, passing 288 in the final session to fray the nerves of an Australia team throwing everything they had at them.
The visitors abandoned any hope of victory, but they bravely clung on for the draw, with Hanuma Vihari, nursing a hamstring injury, surviving 161 balls for just 23 runs and Ravi Ashwin, who had treatment on his ribs, making 39.
The 256 balls they faced in their unbeaten partnership of 62 was the most by an India sixth-wicket pair on Australian soil, helping steer them to 334-5 at the close, 73 runs adrift.
Their resistance was built on the back of an explosive 97 from Rishabh Pant and a typically gritty 77 from Cheteshwar Pujara, who passed 6,000 Test runs, but also helped by wicketkeeper Tim Paine dropping three catches.
“Our talk coming into this morning was to show character and fight till the end, not to think about the result,” India skipper Ajinkya Rahane said. “I’m really happy with the way we fought, especially today, but throughout the game. There are few areas we can improve on, but special mention to Vihari and Ashwin. The way they batted in the end and showed character was really good to see.”
An absorbing Test was marked by some quality batting, led by Steve Smith’s innings of 131 and 81, and Pant’s 97, but it will also be remembered for allegations India were racially abused by sections of the crowd, with investigations under way and tough action promised against the culprits.
After Australia won the first Test in Adelaide by eight wickets and India bounced back in Melbourne by the same margin, the series heads to Brisbane for the final chapter.
It will be a depleted India again at the Gabba, with pacemen Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, and batsmen K.L. Rahul out injured.
There are also doubts over the participation of all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who dislocated his thumb in Sydney, and Vihari, who could barely run during his knock.
“I thought we created enough chances to win the game, this one’s tough to swallow,” Paine said. “I thought our bowlers were superb all day, Nathan [Lyon] tried everything, the quicks were awesome. Just didn’t hold our catches, myself in particular. You’ve got to cop the blame for that, wear it and move on to Brisbane.”
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