RANCHI: Gritty half-centuries from Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh enabled Australia to hold out for a draw in the third Test against India on Monday, leaving the four-match series tantalisingly poised at 1-1.
Australia, who began their second innings 152 runs adrift of the hosts, were in deep trouble after being reduced to 63-4 in Ranchi before Handscomb (72 not out) and Marsh (53) put on 124 for the fifth wicket.
The tourists eventually reached 204-6 at stumps on the fifth and final day, after the hosts made a mammoth 603-9 declared in their first innings.
India’s Ravindra Jadeja claimed four wickets to return overall match figures of 9-178 at India’s newest Test venue.
But it was Cheteshwar Pujara (202) and Wriddhiman Saha (117) who were the main stars of the match for India after their 199-run seventh-wicket stand on Sunday.
The left-right batting combine of Handscomb and Marsh outmanoeuvred the Indian bowlers during their 232-minute resistance, which was broken only late in the final session.
Jadeja dismissed Marsh and his fellow spinner Ravichandran Ashwin then claimed the wicket of first innings centurion Glenn Maxwell for two, giving India brief hope of a dramatic final twist in the tale.
But a composed Handscomb played out the remaining few overs with Wade for company as Australia avoided defeat in their 800th Test.
“I’m proud of the way the boys were able to stick it out today,” said Australia skipper Steve Smith. “The way Marsh and Handscomb batted today was fantastic. I thought they played beautifully. They didn’t look like they were getting out for a while. I’m really proud of them. It was a pretty nice wicket so it was important to score big first innings. India batted beautifully. It was nice to be among the runs.”
Speaking after the match, Indian skipper Virat Kohli said the hosts had given it their all and the series was now set for a riveting finale, with Test cricket’s two top-ranked teams due to resume battle in Dharamsala next Saturday.
“We’ve played some really great cricket. We want to continue the same. We’ve given our 120% in this game, and that’s what matters,” said Kohli. “As long as we keep doing that, I’m sure we’re going to be in good positions in Test cricket. Another game in Dharamsala to go, and we’re ready for it.”
Constant run-ins between the players of the two top sides continued to enliven the intense rivalry that reached boiling point in the previous game when Kohli accused Smith of abusing the decision review system.