Handscomb, Marsh deny India victory
Duo helps Aussies survive on day five
SOLID: Peter Handscomb en route to his unbeaten 72 against India in Ranchi on Monday. PTI
Needing to score 129 runs more to make India bat again after the hosts had declared their first innings closed at a mammoth 603 for nine on Sunday evening, Australia, overnight 23/2, appeared headed for a post-lunch collapse before they found their saviours in Shaun Marsh (53) and Peter Handscomb (72 not out). The tourists finished their second innings at 204 for six in 100 overs to ensure that the series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be decided in Dharamsala which will host the fourth Test from March 25.
Marsh and Handscomb put up an object lesson in the art of saving a match, displaying the right technique and temperament and loads of patience and purpose after Ravindra Jadeja threatened to run through their innings. Joining forces in the middle with Australia having lost two of their reliable batsmen, including captain Steve Smith, the Marsh-Handscomb combine not only saw through the tense seven overs before lunch but also denied India any success for 62.1 overs, which translated into just over four hours, killing any hopes of a result other than draw. India did manage to prise out Marsh and Glenn Maxwell in the latter half of the final session but that did nothing more than providing some excitement to a sizeable crowd.
Smith linked up with overnight batsman Matt Renshaw in the morning, and the two knuckled down in an effort to force a stalemate. They batted out the first hour without any damage but things changed after drinks. Coming around the wicket, Ishant Sharma kept attacking Renshaw’s ribs before slipping in a fuller one to the southpaw who was pinned on the back foot. The ball kept a little low and rapped him below the knee. The batsman didn’t even bother to review the lbw verdict.
Smith then suffered a ‘brain-fade’ when he tried to pad away a Jadeja delivery that pitched on the rough but stayed too far back. The ball spun past his pad and knocked off his off-stump under his shouldered arms. With two set batsmen out in the space of 13 balls, the game was seemingly headed India’s way before Marsh and Handscomb pulled off a Houdini act.
You could have expected Marsh to keep the Indian attack at bay but he being a left-hander was always going to be susceptible against Jadeja’s left-arm spin. Well as Marsh managed to negate Jadeja, who was attempting to exploit the rough outside the off, it was Handscomb who emerged Australia’s unlikely hero with perhaps the most significant knock of his fledgling career.
The left-right combination admirably handled the twin spin threat of Jadeja (4/54) and Ashwin (1/71) on a final day pitch that held together against all the expectations of doomsayers. Not for nothing do they say don’t judge the book by its cover.
Such are the dangers of reading too much into the Indian pitches that often you are left to eat humble pie. The brown, patchy surface rolled out was expected to provide an outright result with the spinners ruling the roost. As things turned out, however, not even in the final session of the final day’s play could the spinners make the sort of impact that could prevent the game from meandering towards a draw. The odd ball kept low or shot up for the pacers while the spinners purchased some turn from the rough, but by and large, it remained good for batting if one were to put a price on his wicket.