India looked firmly in the driver's seat when it took to the field on the last day of the third Test match in Ranchi. However, their best laid plans came to naught after lunch as the duo of Peter Handscombe (72*) and Shaun Marsh (53) successfully thwarted their plans and ensured a draw to keep the series level at 1-1
It all depends on how you look at it—glass half full or glass half empty. If you ask skippers Virat Kohli and Steven Smith, the outcome of the Ranchi Test was an advantage for their respective sides.
India looked firmly in the driver's seat when it took to the field on the last day of the third Test match in Ranchi. However, their best laid plans came to naught after lunch as the duo of Peter Handscombe (72*) and Shaun Marsh (53) successfully thwarted their plans and ensured a draw to keep the series level at 1-1.
The outcome will be decided in the final test match in Dharamsala starting next Saturday.
The on-field tussle was on fully display as both sides fought hard to gain the upper hand. Off-field mind games continued unabated too. Smith was the first to go, claiming a morale-boosting draw after the loss in Bengaluru. Ahead of final Test, it is advantage Australia, he claimed. “If there is anything called momentum, it is with us at the moment. Today, India would have expected to bowl us out. I am sure they are hurting a little bit in their changing rooms. We will have the decider in Dharamsala, which is really exciting,” said Smith, after the match.
Kohli, on the other hand, believed that losing the toss and staring at a 450-plus target in the first innings was challenging enough. For the team to overturn it and place itself in a winning position required an outstanding effort. Speaking to the media after the match, the Indian skipper said, “Where were we in the first innings? We were staring at a score of 450 and we scored 320-odd runs at a loss of six wickets. From there, to make it to 600 was a very difficult task. We put ourselves in a position to win, so we feel it was a very good effort.”
Every one is entitled to their own opinion, says Kohli. “We will look at our positives and we are happy with how we built the game—after just one innings. We didn’t need to bat in the second innings. But they had to play for a draw."
This is only the second time this season that India has been involved in a draw. The first one was in Rajkot in 2016, where India had to dig deep to save the match. From there onwards, they shifted gears to thrash England 3-0.
Smith underlined the importance of defending—a trait that Australia is normally not famous for. That his team was able to withstand Indian bowling on the last day of a Test match was a huge positive. It is never easy to bat in the fourth innings against India and save the game. Said Smith, "I am very proud. The players backed their defence for a long period of time to see the game out. It was an oustanding performance. I am really proud of the way they did it. That is one of the things we have been talking about—being resilient and sticking out through the tough times.”
Kohli, while giving credit to the Australians for putting up a good fight, also praised his bowlers for their laudable efforts on a wicket which did not assist them as much as they would have liked. Singling out left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja who took nine wickets in the match for 178 runs, Kohli said, "I don’t want to take any credit away from their (Aussies') efforts. They batted very well. Four down by lunch, after which they didn’t lose a wicket in the session. So, all credit to them. But we are also very happy with our efforts. Jadeja’s bowling was outstanding in this match. All the bowlers played very well, but Jadeja, in my opinion, stood out. If you look at his economy, it was high-class bowling. It just proves why he is the joint number one bowler alongside Ashwin.”
Both skippers agreed on one thing though— the Ranchi wicket. The pitch got a thumbs-up from both. Smith admitted that Australia wrongly assessed the wicket. “I did not expect the game to go on for five days. It was a really nice wicket, a little rough around the leg-stump.”
The Indian skipper, too, had no complaints with the surface, but was dissatisfied with the quality of the SG balls. “I think the hardness of the ball was a very big factor. Yesterday evening, when the ball was hard, it was turning a lot faster. Even this morning, it was so. But in the second session, it was not so hard. So, it becomes difficult for a bowler to generate pace off the wicket.”
Meanwhile, both Smith and Kohli refused to be drawn into any controversy related to minor on-field face-offs between players from either side.