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PIX: Amazing Indian fightback at SCG on Day 5

Last updated on: January 11, 2021 14:30 IST
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Images from Day 5 of the third Test between Australia and India, at the SCG, on Monday.

Hanuma Vihari of India bats during day five of the 3rd Test against Australia

IMAGE: Hanuma Vihari battled pain and a hostile Australian attack while scoring 23 not out off 161 balls on Day 5 of the third Test against Australia, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, on Monday. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

A resolute Ravichandran Ashwin and a hamstrung Hanuma Vihari battled pain and a hostile Australian bowling attack while displaying the largely extinct art of Test-saving batsmanship to snatch a remarkable draw for India in the third Test, after Rishabh Pant raised visions of an improbable victory, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, on Monday.

 

Chasing a herculean target of 407, Pant (97 off 118 balls) and the ever-steady Cheteshwar Pujara (77 off 205 balls) produced an amazing 148-run stand before India were forced to down the shutters, finishing on 334 for 5 in 131 overs when the players shook hands.

Ravichandran Ashwin

IMAGE: Ravichandran Ashwin got hit on the ribs but carried on manfully to grind out an unbeaten 39 off 128 balls. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

The series stands level at 1-1 going into the fourth Test in Brisbane, but an Indian team which has turned into a 'mini-hospital' will walk away with a lot of pride.

They put up a proper fight in adverse circumstances, already soured by racist chants and abuses from the Sydney crowd, during the course of the game.

Pant's innings will be remembered for long but none can forget that Ashwin (39 not out, 128 balls) and Vihari (23 not out off 161 balls) put their bodies on the line to save a game that could have been lost in a jiffy after their two best batsmen were gone on the day.

Hanuma Vihari receives treatment for a leg injury sustained early during his gutsy knock on day 5.

IMAGE: Hanuma Vihari receives treatment for a leg injury sustained early during his gutsy knock on Day 5. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Pat Cummins (26-6-72-1), Josh Hazlewood (26-12-39-2), Mitchell Starc (22-6-66-0) and Nathan Lyon (46-17-114-2) threw everything they had, peppering them with short balls, hitting the patches with a few jumping from the spot.

The duo, in 42.4 overs, scrapped their way for a 62-run stand, which certainly would have made Rahul Dravid proud on his 48th birthday.

Vihari hobbled with a torn hamstring but defended dourly; Ashwin got hit on the ribs but carried on manfully while also engaging in some chatter with Tim Paine and the close-in fielders.

Catches landed in no man's land and that was the slice of luck they needed. When Marnus Labuschagne was brought in the 112th over, one knew that they had done their job.

The great Neville Cardus had once said "Scoreboard is an ass" and many years down the line, it probably won't highlight what Vihari and Ashwin endured and what they did for the team.

Tim Paine reacts after dropping a catch off Hanuma Vihari

IMAGE: Australia Tim Paine reacts after dropping Hanuma Vihari late in the day. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The dressing room will however always know that and respect them for the bruised ribs and torn hamstring.

Perhaps, it was the was the best way to honour the brilliance of Pant and the assuredness of Pujara. So much so that Ravindra Jadeja, with his broken thumb, was all gloved up and ready to go in if need be.

There was method to madness in Pant's exhilarating innings during which he hit 12 fours and three sixes off 118 balls. His 'cat and mouse' game with the world's best off-spinner Nathan Lyon was one for the ages.

But it was Lyon, who had the last laugh when Pant's desperation to get to the three-figure mark before the second new ball saw him try to hit the spinner against the turn.

The result would have horrified his partner Pujara, who looked far more purposeful during his 205-ball knock.

Session 1

Rishabh Pant

IMAGE: Rishabh Pant led India's fightback on Day 5 of the third Test against Australia with an aggressive half-century. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Rishabh Pant played in his customary aggressive style to hit a half-century in company of an ever-cautious Cheteshwar Pujara, taking India to 206 for 3 at lunch, on final day of the third Test, with Australia still holding the upperhand.

India still need 201 runs to accomplish a near-impossible chase of 407, and with Ravindra Jadeja to bat only if required, Australia just need two wickets to enter a rather fragile tail in the next two sessions, at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Matthew Wade takes the catch to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane.

IMAGE: Matthew Wade takes the catch to dismiss Ajinkya Rahane. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

India lost skipper Ajinkya Rahane in the second over of the day, but Pant smashed his way to 73 off 97 balls, adding 104 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket stand, with Pujara (41 batting, 147 balls) being the ideal foil.

It was one of the most productive sessions for India in this Test series, with 108 runs coming their way, largely due to Pant's counter-attacking display which did put the Australians in a spot.

The session started with Lyon successfully trapping Rahane with a classical off-spinner's dismissal. He tossed one up and the ball hit the rough. India’s skipper tried to defend but forward short leg Matthew Wade took a good catch.

Nathan Lyon celebrates with his teammates after taking the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane.

IMAGE: Nathan Lyon celebrates with teammates after dismissing Ajinkya Rahane. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

In a change of ploy, Pant was promoted above Hanuma Vihari, with knowledge that survival won't help on this track and also the left-right combination needed to be in place.

Pant defended for the first 35 odd balls, but then suddenly in a couple of overs from Lyon, hit him over long on for a six and three fours using his feet to perfection.

Tim Paine then decided to change Lyon's end from Randwick to Paddington but the result was two more sixes -- one over long-off and other over long-on.

Cheteshwar Pujara started the day cautiously but grew in confidence.

IMAGE: Cheteshwar Pujara started the day cautiously but grew in confidence. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

This sudden attack did force Paine to again change his end back to 'Randwick' as Pujara also seemed to gain in confidence playing that whip off mid-wicket to further torment the off-spinner.

The left-hander, who hit eight fours and three sixes was also severe on Mitchell Starc, creaming him through covers on a number of occasions and jabbing a short ball through point.

He was a bit lucky as on two occasions as Paine dropped sharp chances off Lyon.

Session 2

Nathan Lyon celebrates after dismissing Rishabh Pant.

IMAGE: Nathan Lyon celebrates after dismissing Rishabh Pant. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Australia were firmly on course for victory in the third Test after getting rid of a dangerous Rishabh Pant and the rock-steady Cheteshwar Pujara and reducing India to 280 for 5 at tea, in pursuit of 407, on the fifth and final day, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, on Monday.

India now need 127 runs to win but, in all probability, will be looking to survive 36 overs in the final session of the match to salvage a draw.

Pant (97) and Pujara (77) added 148 runs for the fourth wicket in an amazing counter-attacking partnership before their dismissals put India in a spot.

An injured Hanuma Vihari was unbeaten on four in the company of Ravichandran Ashwin (7 batting) at the tea break.

Rishabh Pant is assessed after being stuck on the helmet.

IMAGE: Rishabh Pant is assessed after being stuck on the helmet. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

There was method to madness in Pant's exhilarating innings during which he hit 12 fours and three sixes off 118 balls.

His 'cat and mouse' game with world's best off-spinner Nathan Lyon was one for the ages.

It was Lyon who had the last laugh though when Pant's desperation to get to the three-figure mark before the second new ball saw him try and hit the spinner against the turn.

The result would have horrified his partner Pujara, who looked far more purposeful during his 205-ball knock. He got a beauty from Josh Hazlewood and was bowled in the manner he has often been - playing inside the line to a delivery that moves a shade after pitching.

Josh Hazlewood celebrates after shattering Cheteshwar Pujara's stumps.

IMAGE: Josh Hazlewood celebrates after shattering Cheteshwar Pujara's stumps. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Pant was promoted above Vihari as playing the surviving game wouldn't have helped on this track and also the left-right combination needed to be in place.

He defended for the first 35-odd balls but then, suddenly in a couple of overs from Lyon, hit him over long on for a six and three fours using his feet to perfection.

Pujara confidence to play his strokes and he too brought out the pull-shot out of his repertoire.

Pant’s dismissal again changed the complexion of the game even though Pujara's new found confidence in shot-making did fetch him a few runs.

Once he was gone, Vihari, with a pulled hamstring, and Ravichandran Ashwin, whose batting form has deserted him for some time, were left with the uphill battle of saving the game.

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