Talking Point: The great Australian escape

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 20, 2017 18:33 hrs
Virat Kohli and Peter Handscomb shake hands after the third Test ended in a draw.

There will be those criticising the pitch, but even they will appreciate the effort put in by Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.

On a lifeless pitch, with a relatively softer ball, the Indian bowling unit failed to make headway against the roadblock put up by Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh who ensured Australia escaped from Ranchi with a draw.

The plan was to bat till the end of day and the visitors did exactly that as Virat Kohli tried and tried, but all in vain.

The draw means, both teams now travel to the hills of Dharamsala with India in a must-win situation and the current holders, needing just a draw to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy.

After surrendering meekly during the past three series' in Asia, a rejuvenated Australian side displayed admirable courage and gumption against a dominant Indian side who were unbeaten at home for four years.

The New Zealanders were tamed, the Englishmen were hammered, Bangladesh fought but the Indian lions pounced on them to enter a magical winning streak.

Then came the harsh reality check where the mighty Indians were handed a thrashing in Pune. Virat Kohli and his band were in a state of shock as Australia drew first blood.

However, in the second Test at Bengaluru, India levelled the series, but just when one thought they would hand Ranchi a winning Test debut, there was a change in script.

After Jadeja knocked out David Warner on Sunday evening, there must have been jitters in the Australian dressing room. When Steve Smith did a Virat Kohli by shouldering arms to Jadeja, spin goblins would have crept into the minds of the rest of the batsmen.

But Handscomb and Marsh emerged from that nightmare and with heads held high helped the visitors earn a remarkable draw.

Australia were reeling at 63/4 and India were moving in for the kill. Handscomb and Marsh kept them at bay, and as the afternoon progressed, the match kept slipping away from India's reach.

As the shadows grew across the JSCA stadium, the once nervous legs in the Australian dressing room were up and erect, cheering Handscomb's and Marsh's half-centuries.

The duo forged the third highest partnership of the match - a match saving 124-run stand for the fifth wicket with India wasting one review.

The second new ball was taken with an hour of play left and the review counter was reset.

Ashwin seemed to have Marsh but an unmoved Ian Gould forced India to go for the review with the ball tracker showing that the delivery was likely to hit the leg stump. But it wasn't enough to overturn the umpire's call.

Marsh survived and India were racing against time.

After facing 197 deliveries, Marsh finally fell and first innings centurion Glenn Maxwell too perished. But, by then, Australia were close to attaining parity and the Ranchi crowd were caught in a different bundle of emotions.

Ranchi's own son and India legend MS Dhoni watched on from the corporate box as Australia inched closer to safety. By now, the crowd's new toast was their own Mahi bhai.

Three minutes before the Australian declaration, Kohli offered Australia the draw. Ranchi's debut Test was a hit and like fans, Kohli and his team walked off gleamingly, if not satisfyingly.

A fascinating introduction to Test cricket for Ranchi, it certainly was.

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