When India picked up the wickets of Matt Renshaw and Steve Smith off successive overs, to leave Australia four down in the opening session of the final day of the third Test match, the writing looked to be on the wall – another India win and a series lead of 2-1 going into the final Test match in Dharamsala.
However, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb decided to tear that script right off by putting on a wonderful, patient and extremely-frustrating-for-India partnership, which pushed Australia to within one session of saving this match in Ranchi.
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Coming together in the last half hour of the opening session of day five, when Australia were in deep trouble on 63/4, Marsh and Handscomb showed technique, patience and resolve in keeping the India bowlers, led by Ravindra Jadeja, at bay.
India, perhaps, missed a trick by not starting the second session with Jadeja, but, even when the left-armer came on, both the batsmen were quite outstanding – solid in defence, and more than happy to break the spinner's length –particularly Ashwin's, who was not his potent self, yet again – by coming down the wicket.
Earlier, it took India an hour and a half to get the opening wicket of the day. Ishant Sharma got one to tail-in, Renshaw (15, 84b, 1x4) missed, the ball struck his pads and the umpire Ian Gould, after a big appeal, raised that index finger.
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Next over, Jadeja, who had threatened every now and then with balls that took off from the rough, but not often enough to really cause alarm to the Australia batsmen, got his first wicket of the day.
And that too of Smith (21, 68b, 2x4) – Australia's best batsman by a country mile and a centurion from the first innings.
Coming over the wicket to the right-hander, Smith decided to pad away another one of the balls, but this time, he didn't get the foot forward enough – clearly Smith hasn't quite mastered the art of kicking the balls away as well as Cheteshwar Pujara has – and the ball went past his front foot to smash into off-stump.
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After an hour and a half of patience, India had found two of the biggest wickets they could have asked for – that of the captain and constant tormentor with the bat and that of the batsman with one of the best defences in the Australia team.
With the pressure increasing and increasing, Marsh and Handscomb did quite well to ensure no further damage was done till Lunch, with Ashwin getting to bowl all of one over in this entire session.
First innings: Australia: 451 all out in 137.3 overs.
India: 603/9 declared in 210 overs.
First innings lead: 152 runs.
Second innings: Australia: 149/4 in 69 overs, trail by 3 runs.
Batting in the middle: Shaun Marsh (38, 127b, 5x4) and Peter Handscomb (44, 115b, 3x4).
Bowling: Second innings: India: R Ashwin 19-4-56-0; Ravindra Jadeja 29-14-34-3; Umesh Yadav 12-2-23-0; Ishant Sharma 9-0-24-1.
Fall of wickets: Second innings: Australia: 17/1, David Warner (5.1 overs), 23/2, Nathan Lyon (7.2 overs); 59/3, Matt Renshaw (28.4 overs); 63/4, Steve Smith (29.1 overs).