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India Vs Australia:  3rd Test iconic draw at SCG

In what would be a Test match to remember for ages, India derailed hosts Australia and batted for the entire day, losing just 3 wickets to save the third Test match at SCG on Monday.

India lost only 3 wickets on the final day to script an iconic draw at SCG

Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara partnered for 148 runs off 265 balls

Vihari (23 off 161) and Ashwin (39 off 128) remained unbeaten till the end of match

India battled in an overseas Test match like never before. The memories of the 2001 Test match between India and Australia at Eden Gardens freshened up as Australia were slammed at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Yes, Rishabh Pant (97 off 118), Cheteshwar Pujara (77 off 205), Hanuma Vihari (23 off 161) and Ravichandran Ashwin (39 off 128) combined to face 612 balls or 102 overs in the 2nd innings to script an inconic draw at SCG and devoid Australia a chance to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

After the end of Day 4, India were written off, in a manner very similar after the Adelaide Test. India also did not deviate from the set chronology and proved everyone wrong again by bouncing back and scripting a famous draw Down Under.

Chasing a target of 407 runs, India finished the match on 334/5 and left Australians with not much to say. That also was as big as the draw because the home captain hardly allowed his lips to meet on Monday. All his attempt to get into the thick skins of India batters went in vain and by the end of the match, nothing much was left for him as well, he dropped a catch in the final moments. Prior to the dropped opportunity (or may be the series) he had a lengthy banter with Ashwin.

 ‘India need 309 runs with 8 wickets in hand’ — This summation on the flat Day 5 wicket of Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) will not bother a strong Indian batting unit but what when Virat Kohli is missing from the eleven and two of their main batters are bruised significantly in the match.

When Cheteshwar Pujara and captain Ajinkya Rahane touched the SCG ground before stepping in, they knew that an uphill task was in store for them. The path to save the match became stiffer after Nathan Lyon got the better of Rahane in the very second over itself.

The next sight was of an injured and not fully fit Rishabh Pant marching towards the 22 yards, ahead of Hanuma Vihari. The move looked interesting to many as the 23-year-old was in massive pain on Saturday. A Pat Cummins short ball had hit him on his left elbow and forced him to take scans, forcing him to not take field on Day 4 but here he was, ready to take on the mighty Australian attack.

He started with caution, just like his partner Pujara on the other end, got dropped when on 3 but that was it. Next few hours had Rishabh Pant written all over it. Pant shifted gears and boom! From 5 runs in 33 balls, the southpaw reached to his fifty in 64 balls, 2 sixes and single off Lyon to raise hit bat towards his teammates.

Cheteshwar Pujara might have got some motivation from his junior but he looked a completely different batsman on the final day of the Test. There was aggression in his defence and an intent to score and keep the scoreboard moving. Things were looking really good for the visitors when Pant got out for 97 , just 3 runs short of his 3rd Test hundred. He fell to Lyon, while trying to smoke another boundary towards the covers region. The Delhi batsman, who lived and died by the sword, walked back to the pavilion with his heads down. A mighty 148-run partnership off 265 balls also ended with it.

With an ‘unlucky’ Hanuma Vihari as his new batting partner, Pujara made sure to not give away the team’s momentum. Pujara welcomed Pat Cummins with three back to back boundaries in the 83rd over. While, India hoped for Vihari to accompany Pujara for a long duration, the later departed on a peach of a delivery from Josh Hazlewood. The excitement on the face of the bowler after getting the wicket showed the exact mood of Australian camp. India’s ‘last hope’ Pujara was gone after holding the fort for 205 balls and one-and-a-half session. Pujara, who earlier in the day became 11th Indian player to score 6,000 Test runs, missed out on a hundred by 23 runs.

127 runs were needed to win or a full session to bat out for a draw when Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin assembled in the middle again after the Tea break. High-voltage action started straightaway as umpire gave Ashwin out and the decision got overturned by the third umpire. The same over saw the lanky spinner hit on his shoulder.

In fact, he got hit a few more times later but that did not deter his resilience for even an inch. Vihari also had hamstring problem since the start of his innings but he too stood like a mountain – Tall and unaffected and undeterred. This was the time when Australia lost their cool. Tim Paine yelled at bruised India players, Marnus Labuschagne continued with endless chirping and Matthew Wade, fielding at short leg threw a ball at Vihari, who had just defended a ball solidly.

Fans and experts soon realised that Pujara was not India’s ‘last hope’. India batted for their longest duration after 1980 in the 4th innings of a Test match and the rest as they say now is history.

A over was left in the day when both the teams decided to shake hands head towards Brisbane.

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