Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara met fire with fire on a fifth day pitch at the SCG to put up a defiant 148-run fourth-wicket stand which allowed India to fight back and then the duo of Hanuma Vihari & Ravichandran Ashwin put their bodies on the line in the last session as India managed to pull off a famous draw in the third Test against Australia.
India batted their longest (in terms of balls) – 131 overs – in the fourth innings of a Test match away from home since 1978 to keep the series locked at 1-1 with the final Test to be played in Brisbane.
Vihari braved a hamstring injury and played one of the slowest innings in the history of Indian cricket to stay not out at 23 off 161 balls while Ashwin battled a barrage of short balls, took a few blows on the body to remain unbeaten on 39(128). India finished with 334/5.
The equation for India in the final session to win the third Test against Australia and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was simple – 127 runs with 5 wickets in hand but the journey to it was not.
Day 5 began with the anticipation of an early finish – perhaps an hour or so into the second session as the chances of Ravindra Jadeja (dislocated finger) batting were bare minimum and Rishabh Pant too was down with an elbow injury. But around the same time, it was Australia who were under pressure with a draw seeming out of the equation and an India victory becoming more than just a thought.
The near-impossible was almost turned into reality by an onslaught from Rishabh Pant and a stubborn, gritty innings by Cheteshwar Pujara. India had lost stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane on the second over of Monday but Pant and Pujara did not give an inch to Australia in the first session.
Pant looked set for a much deserved century until he was sent back for 97 by Nathan Lyon, whom Pant had belted for plenty until then. As it often happens in cricket, a wicket produces another and Josh Hazlewood went past Pujara’s defence soon after, ending his 205-ball vigil. Pujara scored 73 priceless runs.
Had the duo survived till the final session, India were well placed to go for the target of 407 runs. But after their dismissal and a hamstring injury to Vihari, the Indian win was out of the equation.
Ashwin and Vihari batted for more than three hours scoring just 54 runs in the final session but the important factor was that India did not lose a wicket in it.
The only chance Vihari gave was when he nicked one off Mitchell Starc in the final hour of the match but Australia captain Tim Paine could not hold on to the difficult catch.
Earlier, Australia set India a huge total to chase as they declared their second innings on 312/6. Youngster Cameron Green top-scored with 84 after the duo of Marnus Labuschage (73) and Steve Smith (81) had extended Australia’s advantage after the bowlers helped them take a 94-run first innings lead.