Australian captain Steve Smith says the momentum is with his side after drawing with India to send the series to a deciding Test.
Australia batted and battled through the final day in Ranchi to come up with a hard-earned draw losing only four wickets in the process. They finished on 6-203 with a lead of 52 runs and had done so well that the draw seemed inevitable not long after tea.
In the end Australia had to face 100 overs and their well-prepared plans for such a situation fell into place and drew the praise of Steve Smith.
“It’s never easy batting in the fourth (sic) innings of a game in India and trying to save the game, and I was exceptionally proud of the way they all went about their business,” Smith said. “They backed themselves to the hilt, we backed them and it’s great that they were able to do what they did.”
The only wobble came half an hour before lunch. Matthew Renshaw pulled away from his stance as India’s paceman Ishant Sharma was about to deliver the ball. Smith explained later what had happened.
“Murali Vijay was at mid-wicket and he moved a few steps to his left as the bowler was running in so that put him (Renshaw) off and he’s entitled to back away,” Smith said.
When this happens fast bowlers are often annoyed and Sharma certainly was in this instance. When he pulled up from his follow through he hurled the ball past Renshaw to his wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha. Words were exchanged with both captains and umpires becoming involved and suddenly the final day’s play had come to life.
Until then Steve Smith and Renshaw had been able to see off India’s opening salvo with few alarms.
Ishant was angry, Kohli was annoyed, Smith was involved and, maybe, Renshaw was distracted. Four balls later a fired up Sharma bowled a straight ball that kept a touch low and Renshaw was out lbw for 15.
Now the Indian team was pumped. Smith faced the next over with Jadeja continuing to operate as he had done all morning bowling from the South End. His first delivery pitched around leg stump and Smith rather tentatively threw out a pad. He hadn’t got completely forward and the ball pitched in the rough just in front of his foot, spun past his leg and took out the off-stump.
“I probably could have got a fraction further down the wicket and used the outside of my pad,” Smith said. “I just misjudged, made a mistake and paid the price.”
At that point Australia were 4-63 and still trailing by 89 runs. Peter Handscomb joined Shaun Marsh in the middle. Marsh was able to smother the turn with either his bat or pad and the odd ball that made things more difficult didn’t bother him. He was content to let the ball come on to the bat and work it around the corner for the odd single or two.
Handscomb was also accruing runs by turning the ball backward of square on the leg side. His method against spin is different. He is nimble on his feet and happy to leave his crease to get to the pitch of the ball.
By the time Jadeja finally prised the pair apart when he had Marsh caught for 53, they had batted more than 62 overs together adding 124 runs.
“I'm very proud,” Smith said. “They had magnificent plans. They backed their defence for a long period of time and to see the game out for as long as they did, it was an outstanding performance. That's one of the things we've been talking about - being resilient and sticking out the tough times. The way Petey and Shaun did that was absolutely magnificent.”
Although Glenn Maxwell fell soon after Marsh, Handscomb stayed through to the end facing 200 deliveries for his 72.
"If there's anything called momentum in cricket it's probably with us at the moment.,” Smith said. “India, coming today, would have expected to bowl us out. I'm sure they're hurting a little bit. It's probably on our side at the minute, but having said that it is one-all and we're to be playing a decider in Dharamsala. Really exciting. (The) group's looking forward to it.”