Ashwin-Vihari Defiance Helps India Hold On for Special Draw at SCG

The series remains locked at 1-1 after three Tests with the fourth in Brisbane scheduled to start on 15 January.

3 min read
R Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari during their defiant 6th wicket stand against Australia at SCG. 

A much-bruised India put in very special batting effort in the fourth innings on the final day of the Sydney Test and saved the game against Australia. The hosts’ bowling attack threw the kitchen sink at the Indian batters who fought with great determination despite a few painful blows to save the Test match.

With their backs to the wall on the morning of the final day, the likes of Hanuma Vihari and R Ashwin defended doggedly, despite injuries, to frustrate the Australians after Rishabh Pant and Cheteshwar Pujara’s 148-run partnership had raised some hopes of a win earlier in the day.

Vihari and Ashwin batted for 256 deliveries as they dropped anchor, and India played 131 overs to blunt the Australian bowling and come away with a sensational draw. Before their massive effort, Pant took the attack to the hosts, and was especially harsh on spinner Nathan Lyon during his 118-ball-97.

The series remains locked at 1-1 after three Tests with the fourth in Brisbane scheduled to start on 15 January. India are currently the holders of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

India were dealt a big blow early on Day 5 when skipper and overnight batsman Ajinkya Rahane lost his wicket in the second over. Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara were the two batters at the crease at Stumps on Day 4 after India lost openers Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma in the last half hour of play on Sunday. The score was 98/2 at Stumps with India needing 309 runs to win.

Australian and Indian players at the end of the Sydney Test. 
Australian and Indian players at the end of the Sydney Test. 
Image: IANS

Australia captain Tim Paine, who eventually had a terrible day after dropping a few crucial catches, handed the ball to Lyon after Cummins opened the day and he delivered, with Matthew Wade taking a sharp catch at short leg to send the Indian captain packing for 4.

With India needing more than 300 runs on Day 5 to win the Test, in walked Rishabh Pant, who had injured his elbow while batting in the first innings and did not take the field on Day 4, and looked solid at the crease, scoring his third Test half century.

While Pujara held up one end of the innings, Pant, who initially took time to get his eye in, scored at brisk pace smashing Nathan Lyon for back-to-back sixes before taking a single to reach his half century.

The southpaw continued his attack and smashed 12 boundaries and three sixes during his stay, making the Australians pay for the reprieves which Paine afforded him with a couple of dropped catches off Lyon.

Pant went for another big shot off Lyon but ran out of luck and became Australia’s second wicket as Cummins took a low catch at backward point. Soon after, Pujara (77), who also scored a half century, was dismissed by a peach of a delivery from Josh Hazlewood.

Australia had their tails up and the pacers bowled a hostile spell against Ashwin and Vihari, who put their bodies on the line, quite literally, to thwart the opposition.

For the duo, survival was top priority and they showed great defiance for more than a couple of hours.

Vihari who injured his hamstring early in his knock was in quite some pain but batted on with Ashwin who copped a few blows to the body as well.

Australia almost found the breakthrough when Starc found the edge of Vihari’s bat, however Paine, could not hold on and the batters continued with their gutsy approach.

In the final hour, Ashwin and Vihari, who picked up most of their runs in boundaries brought up the 50-run partnership off 246 deliveries. Ashwin faced 128 deliveries for his 39, while Vihari played 161 for his 23.

India batted on till 131 overs, with the last pair coming together in the 89th to grind out the draw. India, who were chasing 407 to win, finished with the score at 334/5 when stumps were finally drawn.

Brief scores: Australia 338 & 312/6 dec vs India 244 & 334/5 (Rishabh Pant 97, Cheteshwar Pujara 77, Hanuma Vihari 23*, R Ashwin 39*; Josh Hazlewood 2/39)

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