Sydney: India battled against all odds to force Australia to a draw on the fifth and final day of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here on Monday.
No matter how many challenges India faced in the Sydney Test, the match between India and Australia was eventually drawn.
Australia seemed close to victory ahead of the last day of the Sydney Test. Set a target of 407 runs, India started the final day at 98/2. It seemed like a lost cause for India and an Australian victory seemed only a matter of time.
But gritty batting by Rishabh Pant (97), Cheteshwar Pujara ( 77), Hanuma Vihari (23 not out) and Ravichandran Ashwin (39 not out) saved the day for India and dashed hopes of an Australian victory.
India had given Australia a mammoth target of 407 runs, in response to which India lost their two wickets for 98 runs on the fourth day. Australia had to take just eight wickets on the fifth day. On the wicket were India's acting captain Ajinkya Rahane and Pujara.
On the fifth day, the Indian team's score was increased by four runs that Nathan Lyon got Rahane (4) caught by Matthew Wade. For India, it was a big wicket whose loss of hopes for Australia's victory was strengthened.
While batting in the first innings, an injured Pant stepped onto the field after the captaincy and from here the building of the Australian win dream started collapsing. Pant started scoring runs at one end and Pujara stood at the other end. The partnership did not break in the first session of the day and both continued to bat in their own style. By the end of the first session, Pujara was unbeaten on 41 and Pant 73 and India's score was 206/3.
Pujara completed six thousand runs in Tests in the second season. Pujara also completed his half-century. Pant, standing at the other end, was heading towards the century. Lyon was put on the break by his innings. Pant wanted to hit a big shot off Lion's ball but the ball took the top edge of his bat and went to Pat Cummins. Pant missed a century by three runs.
He faced 118 balls and hit 12 fours and three sixes in his match-saving innings. Pant's wicket fell when India's score was 250. Pujara and Pant made a tough partnership for Australia by 148 runs big partnership. After some time, Pujara too was bowled by Josh Hazlewood for a total score of 272. He played 205 balls and hit 12 fours.
Australia returned to the match after Pujara and Pant left. By the end of the second season, India had scored 280 runs losing five wickets. It was now a priority to draw a match for India, which once looked like winning.
Vihari then did what probably proved to be the most important. Vihari, like Angad, set foot on the wicket and gave the Australian bowlers a longing for the wicket. He was not scoring, he did not want to say that. Their goal was to simply draw the match while playing the ball empty. Ashwin supported him well from the other end. Ashwin was also doing what Vihari was doing, but Ashwin's strike rate was higher than Vihari.
Ultimately, both these players managed to do their best and returned unbeaten to draw the match. Vihari scored just 23 runs from 161 balls. He scored at a strike rate of 14.29. Ashwin faced 39 runs, facing 128 balls. Ashwin had a strike rate of 30.47. Vihari hit four fours and Ashwin hit seven fours. Both these batsmen shared a 62-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
There was one over to end the day's play, but both teams agreed not to play it. India played a total of 131 overs in the fourth innings. For the first time in the fourth innings since 1980, India have played so many overs. Hazlewood, Lyon, took two wickets each for Australia. Pat Cummins got one wicket.
Australia had scored 338 runs in the first innings. India had scored 244 runs in the first innings. Australia started their second innings with a lead of 94 runs. The hosts had declared their second innings at 312/6 at tea on the fourth day. Giving India a tough target of 407 runs.
Australia's star batsman Steve Smith, who scored 131 in the first innings and 81 in the second innings, was adjudged the Man of the Match.
The four-match series is tied at 1-1. The fourth Test will be played in Brisbane.