Nervy India hold out for draw at MCG

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Decemebr 30, 2014

Brief Scorecard: Australia 530 (Smith 192) and 9 for 318 dec (Marsh 99, Rogers 69) drew with India 465 (Kohli 169, Rahane 147, Harris 4-70) and 6 for 174 (Kohli 54, Dhoni 24*)

Decemebr 30, 2014

Brief Scorecard: Australia 530 (Smith 192) and 9 for 318 dec (Marsh 99, Rogers 69) drew with India 465 (Kohli 169, Rahane 147, Harris 4-70) and 6 for 174 (Kohli 54, Dhoni 24*)

MS Dhoni exchanges handshakes with the Australia team, after what turned out to be his final Test, Australia v India, 3rd Test, Melbourne, 5th day, December 30, 2014

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: India survived some anxious moments to hold on for a draw at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the third Test against Australia, ending the match with 174 for 6 on the board in 66 overs after being set a target of 384 on Tuesday (December 30). The result meant Australia regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, having taken a winning 2-0 lead with one Test to play.

The teams shook hands and play was called off unexpectedly with four overs still left and Australia needing four wickets, but with R Ashwin and MS Dhoni holding firm in an unbroken 32-run stand spanning 11 overs, Steve Smith decided that there was no way for his bowlers to force the issue. It was the first draw at an MCG Test in 17 years.

Smith had delayed the declaration of the Australian second innings till the stroke of lunch earlier in the day after Shaun Marsh, who had kicked on to make 99, was run out by a direct hit from Virat Kohli from mid-off as he was scampering for his 100th run. Australia, who had resumed on 261 for 7, inexplicably added only 57 runs in 23 overs to reach 318 for 9, leaving themselves 70 overs to get 10 Indian wickets.

The seamers then accounted for three of those wickets in just 8.1 overs, with India’s chase wobbling at 19 for 3 and the home side upbeat.

Ryan Harris made the first breakthrough, trapping Shikhar Dhawan in front with his second ball. India rejigged the batting order and sent in KL Rahul, the debutant, at No. 3. It seemed a well-considered move, given that Rahul opens the batting for Karnataka and Cheteshwar Pujara has struggled for runs of late. But Rahul (1) lasted just six balls and was dismissed trying to pull Mitchell Johnson from well outside off, his third poor shot in two innings in the game, to be well caught by Shane Watson, running back from  first slip.

The score soon moved from 5 for 2 to 19 for 3 when M Vijay, who has looked among India’s most solid batsmen on the tour so far, was adjudged lbw to a Josh Hazlewood delivery that seemed to be tailing down the legside.

Virat Kohli's 54 and his 85-run stand with Ajinkya Rahane helped India draw the game.

That brought Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane – the first-innings centurions – together again. Kohli, who expectedly copped plenty of chatter from the Australians with chants of “All about you mate”, began in typically busy fashion, but had a nervy moment when he survived a run-out chance early on, taking off for a single with the ball pushed to mid-off. Vijay didn’t respond and Kohli had to scramble back, only surviving because David Warner fired in a poor throw after doing well to get to the ball.

Kohli did well to shut out the distractions though, taking the lead in the partnership with Rahane. He reached his half-century off 87 balls and also survived another run-out chance, with Nathan Lyon failing to connect cleanly for what should have been a straightforward dismissal after Kohli tried to steal an ill-advised second run on an overthrow, a mere five balls before tea.

India went into the final break 104 for 3, but the miss didn’t prove too costly for Australia, Harris snaring Kohli with the first ball post tea. Australia needed to get seven wickets in the final session in 36 overs, and Harris got the key man right up front, when Kohli flicked him straight to Joe Burns at square-leg to end an 85-run association.

Pujara, in desperate need of runs, came in at No. 6 and held one end up well alongside Rahane until he was masterfully done in by Johnson. Pinged on the grill one ball with the next too sailing over the head, Johnson went a little wider off the next and bowled a slower ball that cut away from Pujara, leaving the batsman standing in a forward defensive pose and the offstump knocked out of the ground.

When Rahane then fell four overs later, India were 142 for 6 in 55 overs, and Australia were scenting victory with 15 overs remaining and the top six back in the hut.

Smith rotated all his bowlers to search for the elusive breakthrough that would give Australia an opening into the Indian tail. However, Dhoni and Ashwin batted sensibly, trusting their skills and a surface that still held no demons, to ensure the prospect of defeat was averted.


Courtesy: Wisden India