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Posted at: Mar 21, 2017, 2:18 AM; last updated: Mar 21, 2017, 2:18 AM (IST)

Australia find escape route

Handscomb, Marsh help visitors bat out the last day to earn a fighting draw

Sabi Hussain

Tribune News Service

ranchi, march 20

The wicket of Steve Smith, bowled by Ravindra Jadeja some 30 minutes before lunch, seemed to spell curtains for Australia. At 63/4, with nearly 70 overs to go in the last day's play, Australia were staring down the barrel.

But then, quite unexpectedly, Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh produced a remarkable fightback. Handscomb (72 not out) dead-batted most of the 200 balls he faced, Marsh (53) played out 197 balls, and the Indian spin attack was neutralised. Only four wickets fell on the final day of the third Test as Australia finished at 204/6 in 100 overs.

Handscomb atoned for the ‘Cheatgate’ controversy of the Bengaluru Test — it was he who had advised Smith to seek advice on DRS from the dressing room — by guiding Australia to a morale-boosting draw from a seemingly impossible situation. The series will be up for grabs in Dharamsala, where the fourth Test will be played from March 25 to 29.

Defying spin

Ravindra Jadeja gave it his all, bowling 44 of the 100 overs, finishing with 4/54. But he just couldn’t get past Handscomb and Marsh until the final half-hour of the day’s play. And when Jadeja did get Marsh, it was too late because Australia had already reached safety at 187/5, 35 runs ahead.

Australia, thus, produced one of the most remarkable fightbacks in recent Test history to escape with a draw on a slow turner, the sort on which many visiting teams have perished in India.

Australia became the first visiting team since 2010-11 to salvage a draw in India after trailing in the first innings. It was also the first draw played by Australia in India since the Delhi Test in 2008.

Tough fight

Handscomb batted for more than two sessions and spent a gruelling 261 minutes in the Ranchi cauldron. Marsh, too, produced a truly remarkable innings of grit and determination, spending 236 minutes at the crease. The two had a 124-run partnership for the fifth wicket in 373 balls.

When Australia resumed at 23/2 in the morning, Matt Renshaw and Smith defied India for nearly 90 minutes before being removed in quick time, in the space of four balls. Renshaw was trapped lbw by Ishant Sharma for 15, while Smith (21) had a genuine batting ‘brain-fade’ when he did not play at a ball from Jadeja and was bowled.

Handscomb and Marsh then joined forces and batted out the seven overs to lunch, which was taken at 83/4, still 69 runs adrift.

Rough patch

Jadeja had been exploiting the rough patch outside the left-handers’ off-stump line, and Kohli didn’t even bring on Ravichandran Ashwin until the penultimate over before lunch. Kohli hoped that Jadeja, Ishant and Umesh Yadav would run through the Australian line-up, but Handscomb and Marsh were up for the challenge.

The two stoutly defended whatever the Indians threw at them. Handscomb, dropped on 6 by Karun Nair off Ashwin at short leg, made full use of the reprieve. The two kept the Indians wicketless in the middle session, scoring 66 runs in 33 overs. Both survived close DRS reviews by the hosts, and as they batted on, India's hopes fell. Jadeja broke the partnership by dismissing Marsh, but only after their 62 overs of resistance. Handscomb’s mature innings must have provided him great relief. He had been very apologetic for his role in Smith's 'brain-fade' in the Bengaluru Test ‘Cheatgate’, but his match-saving effort today would allow him to sleep in peace.

Why Australia surviving the last day is a big deal

7 Number of times the visiting teams have batted out the last day to save a Test in India. South Africa was the last team to achieve the feat — in Chennai in 2008

9 Number of years since a visiting team saved a Test in India after conceding a 150-plus lead. In 2008, England survived after conceding a 151-run lead

3 Number of Tests Australia have saved in India after conceding a 150-plus lead. Apart from Ranchi, they did it in Delhi in 1979-80, and in Mumbai in 1986-87


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