Monday, January 18, 2021
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Australia v India: Tourists draw thrilling third Test to keep series level

Australia v India: Tourists draw thrilling third Test to keep series level
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Ravichandran Ashwin (pictured) and Hanuma Vihari repelled Australia for 42.4 overs
Third Test, Sydney Cricket Ground (day five)
Australia 338 (Smith 131, Labuschagne 91) & 312-6 dec (Green 84, Smith 81)
India 244 (Cummins 4-29) & 334-5 (Pant 97, Pujara 77)
Match drawn; series level at 1-1
Scorecard

India showed incredible defiance to bat out the final day in a memorable draw with Australia in the third Test and take a thrilling series into a decider.

The tourists resumed on 98-2, chasing an unlikely 407 to win, and lost captain Ajinkya Rahane early on.

Rishabh Pant countered with a sublime 97 and Cheteshwar Pujara dug in for 77 during an absorbing second session in which it seemed India could even pull off the third highest fourth-innings chase in Test history.

But after both fell before tea to leave Australia needing five wickets in the final session, Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin battled superbly to survive 256 balls to steer India to 334-5 at the close.

Vihari’s unbeaten 23 off 161 balls was even more impressive given he batted for most of his innings with a hamstring injury, while Ashwin made 39 not out off 128 deliveries.

Australia captain and wicketkeeper Tim Paine dropped three catches, while his vaunted fast bowlers and off-spinner Nathan Lyon toiled on a pitch that did not deteriorate as much as expected.

The series remains level at 1-1 heading into the fourth and final Test in Brisbane starting on 15 January.

India, who were bowled out for 36 in the first-Test defeat, need only a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, while Australia have not lost at the Gabba since 1988.

This was an enthralling finale, but the third Test will also be remembered for allegations of racist abuse against India players by members of the crowd at the SCG.

Cricket Australia said on Monday it could issue “indefinite” bans to any spectators found to have racially abused India players.

Pant brings hope of the improbable

India batsman Rishabh Pant drives Nathan Lyon during day five of the third Test
Pant now averages 40.66 from 15 Tests

Given Rahane fell to Lyon in the second over of the day, that India looked on course to execute one of the greatest run-chases of all time during the second session underlined what a special knock Pant played.

He had not kept wicket since being hit on the elbow by Pat Cummins on day three, but was promoted to number five and played his natural attacking game with aplomb to put the pressure back on Australia.

Paine missed a catch to remove Pant for three and he punished the mistake ruthlessly, carting Lyon for three massive sixes as he reached his third Test fifty from only 64 balls.

He was dropped again by Paine on 56 – also off Lyon – and continued to attack, leading himself to the brink of a stunning century and India to 250-3 with plenty of time to score the further 157 required.

But in the last over before the new ball, he skipped down the pitch to Lyon and sliced to Cummins at gully.

Pujara proved an excellent foil in characteristically watchful style as he steadily accumulated 77 off 205 balls before he was bowled by a sublime delivery from Josh Hazlewood.

Technical and mental defiance

Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari hit his first boundary off the 125th ball he faced

Even after Pant fell, India still appeared determined to go for victory but began to change tack after Vihari injured a hamstring taking a quick single, a decision that was reinforced once Pujara was dismissed soon after.

That left India on 272-5, with 43.4 overs remaining in the day and several factors firmly in Australia’s favour.

Vihari was injured and out of form, Ravindra Jadeja would have had to bat with a dislocated thumb if required and India’s tail is weak.

But Vihari and Ashwin, who has four Test centuries, played a defensive masterclass to stave off Cummins, Hazlewood, Lyon and left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc, while substitute fielder Sean Abbott also dropped Ashwin on 15.

With their chances of victory fading, Matthew Wade and Paine in particular became increasingly vocal in trying to put off Vihari and Ashwin by sledging them, with the stump microphone picking up several barbed comments.

Yet the next over after an exchange with Ashwin, Paine dropped an edge from Vihari off Starc and, with it, Australia’s hopes of taking a 2-1 series lead, before he decided to shake hands on a draw with one over remaining.

Paine takes the blame – reaction

India captain Ajinkya Rahane: “Our talk this morning was all about showing character and fight to the end and not think about the result, so we’re really happy with the way we fought.

“Special mention to Vihari and Ashwin in the end showing that character – it was really great to see.

“Credit to Pant. We promoted him because it was about that left-hand, right-hand combination in the middle and it worked out.”

Australia captain Tim Paine: “We were pretty confident in forcing victory with our attack. We created enough chances all day so it’s a tough one to swallow, especially for me.

“I’ll cop the blame for that, move on and look forward to Brisbane.

“It was a wholehearted effort from the boys and things just didn’t go our way.”

Australia batsman Steve Smith, who was named player of the match, on ABC Grandstand: “They fought really hard. It was a pretty benign surface – it looked on day four it might start to play tricks, but it didn’t and India played really well.”





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