Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh battled for 62.1 overs as the Australians escaped the Ranchi Test with a draw Monday after finding themselves in deep trouble in the morning session. At one stage, Australia were 63/4, still trailing the Indians by 89 runs on the fifth and final day of the third Test match.
The duo added 124 runs for the fifth-wicket, a partnership that steered Australia to safety entering the final session of play. Though Marsh eventually fell for 53, Handscomb remained unbeaten on 72 as Australia finished their fourth innings at 204/6 from 100 overs before Indian captain Virat Kohli agreed to call off the game. Indian spinner Ravindra Jadeja evoked some hopes for the visitors when he dismissed Marsh and Glenn Maxwell (2) in quick succession until Matthew Wade joined Handscomb to play out the final few overs.
Handscomb, playing in just his seventh Test match, exhibited sturdy determination and most likely sealed his place in the playing XI for the foreseeable future. Marsh, on the other hand, proved the Australian selectors right for picking him ahead of regular No. 3 Usman Khawaja at the start of the series. Marsh had thrived in similar situations during Australia's tour of Sri Lanka last year.
Ranchi Test: Steven Smith proud of his team
Australian captain Steven Smith, who scored an unbeaten 178 in the first innings of the Ranchi Test, admitted that the team was nervous during the lunch interval. "It was nervous (in the dressing room). A pretty good Test. Proud of the way the boys stuck it out. That's what we want to be. Resilient. They played beautifully today. They didn't look like they would get out for a while. It was crucial for us, at such an important time. It was important to score big first-innings run, we left ourselves a bit short there," Smith said during the post-match presentation ceremony, via ESPNCricinfo.com.
Indian skipper Virat Kohli tipped his hat off to the Aussies. "Guys want to push the barrier, their physical limits, their mental toughness. Credit to Australia for playing out the draw, but we played ourselves into a position where we could win. When you play only one format, you are always extra determined to make it count. Dharamsala (the venue for the final Test), (will be) no different from what I have done here. We have given our best here, and as long as we keep doing that, I am sure we will get ourselves into winning positions."
With the series still tied at one win apiece, the teams will now travel to Dharamsala for the fourth and final Test match. Incidentally, the picturesque venue will be hosting a Test match for the first time since its inception. The HPCA stadium has previously hosted a few one-day internationals and twenty-20 international matches. Stay tuned for the latest news and updates surrounding the Dharamsala Test which takes place between March 25 and 29.