Gritty India hang on for draw

Gritty India hang on for draw

Cricket Fourth Test: Despite the stalemate at SCG, Australia regain the Border-Gavaskar

Gritty India hang on for draw

With three wickets needed from a possible 70 balls under fading light and increasing decibels from the stands, Australia gave it their all but Ajinkya Rahane (38 n.o., 126m, 88b, 5x4) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (20 n.o., 49m, 30b, 3x4) showed nerves of steel to pull off a tense draw for India.

Australia thus regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-0 verdict, victories coming in the first two Tests in Adelaide and Brisbane.

The dominant Australians, with a win in sight, were exasperated by the time the last ball was bowled while the Indians, always behind the eight ball, walked away with satisfying grins. Test cricket at its exhilarating best can be really funny. Chasing 349 from a minimum of 90 overs for a win, India were 252 for seven in 89.5 overs when the players shook their hands to agree to a stalemate.

Having meandered along, save for phases when Steven Smith and Virat Kohli lit up the scene with their imperious batting, on a surprisingly slow surface, the fourth and final Test burst into life when the Australian bowlers made crucial breakthroughs in the final session of the day.

India had inched to 160 for two at tea after Australia declared their second innings closed at their overnight score of 251 for six here at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday. Kohli (46) was untroubled while M Vijay (80, 257m, 165b, 7x4, 2x6) had grown in confidence having enjoyed two slices of lives on 24 and 42. Minutes before the tea interval, Vijay had taken two fours and a six off Nathan Lyon’s over and showed the same intent after resumption. That was the only time when it appeared that India may actually be going for the target though a target of 197 from 34 overs on the final stretch of the day would have taken some effort.

Vijay’s departure early in the last session, however, forced India to shut their shop. The right-handed opener, who gathered 482 runs to finish as India’s second highest run-getter for the series behind Kohli’s 692, wafted Josh Hazlewood’s delivery wide outside off-stump to hand Brad Haddin a simple catch. With Kohli around, a draw wasn’t a distant possibility but the Indian skipper felt for an away shaping ball from Mitchell Starc and Shane Watson completed a fine take in slip.

This was the opening Australia needed to crack open the game. Suddenly the ball was reverse-swinging, Nathan Lyon was purchasing appreciable turn and extracting variable bounce from the pitch, Australia had their tails up while the crowd seemed to have found their voices again.

Suresh Raina, who had got out for a first-ball duck in the first innings, collected a pair when Starc’s inswinger caught him in his crease in front of the wickets. Raina now has five ducks from the last seven innings. Wriddhiman Saha went on the back foot only to be adjudged lbw when Lyon rapped him low on his pads with a faster delivery. India had lost three wickets in the space 20 balls and at 208 for six, Australia had a genuine sniff at victory.

Rahane and Ashwin kept Australia at bay for about seven overs but Hazlewood dealt India another blow when the right-arm quick won an lbw against Ashwin. Smith, perhaps, made a tactical mistake at this stage by taking the second new ball when he could have bowled another over from Hazlewood in the middle of a fine reverse-swinging spell. Rahane then batted intelligently by taking the majority of the strike while Bhuvneshwar did no harm to his batting credentials with a gutsy show.

Earlier, Vijay and KL Rahul put on a steady 48 at the top. Rahul, looking confident, gloved Lyon to leg slip when he the right-hander failed to smother spin. Rohit Sharma (39) then survived a close stumping chance but couldn’t again convert his start.        

Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar presented the trophy named after them to Smith who was declared both the man of the match and man of the series.