Batting out 258 balls with a fierce home team throwing everything it had up its sleeves is no mean feat. But the Indian duo of Hanuma Vihari and R Ashwin stood ground and managed to do just that as they eked out a draw in what was nothing short of an action-packed fifth day in the third Test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday.
Batting out 131 overs — the most India have batted in the fourth innings of a Test since 1980 – showed exactly what Ashwin meant when he spoke about playing like true warriors at the end of the fourth day’s play at the SCG.
A hamstring injury notwithstanding, Vihari hit an unbeaten 161-ball 23 while Ashwin hit 39 off 128 balls as the two defended away any hopes Australia had of registering a win. With an injured Ravindra Jadeja waiting in the pavilion, it was important for the two to ensure they saw India to the end and that is just what they did as the players shook hands with an over left.
But it all started in the morning when the team management decided to send in Rishabh Pant at the fall of stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane’s wicket. With the game clearly in Australia’s court, Pant decided to show why the team has backed him despite his inconsistent run.
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A fearless brand of cricket from him suddenly saw India walking into the lunch break with the score on 206/3. With 201 needed and Pant on a roll, it suddenly looked like India was playing to go 2-1 up in the series. Credit must also be given to Cheteshwar Pujara as he kept the board ticking for change after he had come under heavy criticism for his approach in the first innings.
But Nathan Lyon sending Pant back on 97 suddenly saw the Indian fans fear another collapse. But the out-of-form Vihari wasn’t letting anybody down this time round.
He first combined for a short partnership with Pujara and then after the latter’s dismissal for 77 off 206 balls , combined with Ashwin to see India home.