Test series alive as Handscomb, Marsh fights out draw in Ranchi

Rajat Kain

A scene from third test match between India and Australia, March 20, 2017. Photo - PTI

A scene from third test match between India and Australia, March 20, 2017.
Photo – PTI

124-run partnership between Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb, stretching 373 balls covering three session and spanning over five hours, stole a draw for Australia in the third Test match at Ranchi. The two teams will now have a go at the title in the fourth and last test match of the series at Dharamsala starting this weekend.

Batting to stay alive, Australia came into final day under the deficit of 129 runs and eight wickets in hand. On crease was skipper Steve Smith and opener Mathew Renshaw.

The pair looked set to go distance before charged-up Ishant Sharma trapped Renshaw leg before ending 36 runs partnership which had braved 21.2 overs in the first session. Next over, Steve Smith terribly misjudged Jadeja’s twirler only to see stumps shattered and in the process Australia’s chances of survival.

But in came Peter Handscomb, he may well be Australia’s new find in batting, who joined struggling but determined Shaun Marsh.

The two batted through the testing 30 minutes before the lunch, whole of second session and good hour after the tea to take Australia safe and ahead by 35 runs before Shaun Marsh lobbed one sitter at the short leg off Jadeja, who firmly kept India in the hunt.

Each time Jadeja came to ball, there was a feeling that wicket is just around, just there, right there, but the fortification by Aussie’s fourth wicket pair was equally firm, or perhaps even more.

Ranchi: Indian batsman Cheteswar Pujara greets his teammate Wriddhiman Saha after he complete his century during 4th days play of 3rd test match against Australia in Ranchi, March 19, 2017. Photo - PTI

Ranchi: Indian batsman Cheteswar Pujara greets his teammate Wriddhiman Saha after he complete his century during 4th days play of 3rd test match against Australia in Ranchi, March 19, 2017.
Photo – PTI

With this draw, the two teams now head to Dharamsala where any result will decide the series.

While a victory of either team will give them Border-Gavaskar trophy, a draw will give Australia to retain the title, for they are the current holders of the two decade old bilateral contest.

The test match, which was dominated by the batting, unlike the previous two, saw one of the best test knocks from Chetashwar Pujara and keeper Wridhima Saha. The pair combined for the 7th wickets producing 199 runs batting through nearly the whole of day 4 yesterday.

The two took India from near struggling six for 328 to 527 before Pujara ended his 202-run knock chasing Australia’s first innings total of 451. The partnership aided India taking a 152-run lead and firming its grip on the match.

The result seemed inevitable and in the favour of Team India, when Ravindra Jadeja dismissed opener David Warner and night watchman Nathan Lyon in the closing minutes of day four. At 23 for 2, Australia looked timid and tamed.

But the resilience and brilliance of Marsh-Handscomb combine took the match away from India.

Earlier, Australia had build a solid foundation on the back of superb 178 by the skipper Steve Smith, his second century of the series, and brilliant 104 by Glenn Maxwell, playing only his fourth test.