“Bruised. Broken. But never short of character,” were the words, a proud Indian skipper Ajinkya Rahane Tweeted post a valiant battle on Day 5 of the Third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari’s defiance of the highest quality shut the Australians out as India salvaged an unlikely draw on Monday. The defining partnership of 62* runs from 259 balls for the sixth wicket saw Tim Paine call it a day with 6 balls left.
Sydney witnessed a nail-biting final day contest between the world’s top two Test teams. Coming out to bat on stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane fell prey to Nathan Lyon in the second over of the opening session. Tim Paine’s bowling changed clicked as Rahane nicked one to the silly point on 4.
When Rishabh Pant came out to bat before Hanuma Vihari, the audacity of the tactical risk was questioned by many. But the wicket-keeper batsman showed exactly why he was bestowed with the honour. Pant stitched a pivotal 148 run partnership with Pujara, which not only unsettled the likes of Lyon, Cummins, Hazelwood but gave India the hope of doing the unthinkable.
Pant sprinted to 97 of 118, as he smacked the bowlers around the Sydney Cricket Ground. The southpaw’s aggressiveness was boosted when the hosts dropped a flurry of catches on Day 5. Pant was dropped twice before he dismantled the Aussie bowling line-up. He hit 12 boundaries and three sixes before finally perishing three short of a deserving hundred. Lyon picked up Pant which turned the tide in favour of the hosts.
Pujara played the justified role of a partner, rotating strikes with Pant and punishing the bad balls. He was swift on his feet, saw the ball well as he picked up occasional boundaries. The Test specialist changed gears once Pant departed, and brought up his fifty. However, Hazelwood’s swing outsmarted Pujara (77) as his off-stump went flying just before Tea. Two wickets in quick succession were major setback in India’s endeavour.
The last session, perhaps the most epic battle of two defiant batsmen and a relentless bowling attack, saw Ashwin (39* off 128) and Vihari (23* off 161) stand tall, thwarting the hosts’ plan to savour a victory. A barrage of short balls saw both the batsmen cop some major blows but their resolute defence were not to be broken today. Vihari batted on despite being uncomfortable from a hamstring niggle, and Ashwin gave him the perfect support.