Australia coach Darren Lehmann had said it would be a tough ask for his team to negotiate the Indian attack on the final day in Ranchi. However, his boys stood up to the task and defied the odds to earn a hard fought draw as they lost only four wickets in the day and played a hundred overs in total. It was a monumental effort by Steve Smith and his team as they survived day five on a pitch which offered considerable assistance to the bowlers. The main architects of this defense were Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb.
The duo batted out as many as 62 overs and spent more than 200 minutes at the crease. Marsh used his feet brilliantly as he displayed a class performance with the willow. His innings drew applause even from the Indian captain Virat Kohli. He was finally dismissed for 53 but that was not before he had consumed 197 deliveries and put Australia out of danger. Handcomb batted stoically and earned himself a hard fought fifty, and remained unbeaten when the final delivery was bowled. His application at the crease was tremendous and this innings of an unbeaten 72 from 200 deliveries will surely go on to cement his place in the Australian middle order (Tests). Already in his short career Handscomb has shown that he has the temperament for this format of the game, and his ability to play spin in the sub-continent.
Meanwhile, proceedings on the last day of the Test at Ranchi looked a bit grim for the visitors from the onset. Resuming at 23/2 after the dismissal of David Warner and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon late last night and still requiring 129 runs to make India bat again, Australia began tentatively.
However, Steve Smith and Matt Renshaw negotiated the first hour safely and looked good to bat out the day. It seemed like the session might just be going towards Australia’s way, that was until a fired up Ishant sharma reversed one into Renshaw’s pads. It proved to be a crucial breakthrough as soon another minor lapse in concentration by Steve Smith led to his downfall. At lunch on day five, the session in which Australia lost Matt Renshaw and Steve Smith in quick succession, Australia were tottering at 83/4.
It was from here that Marsh and Handscomb steadied the ship as they forged a partnership of 124. They survived a few scares and a couple of reviews but most importantly kept the scoreboard ticking. Both Handscomb and Marsh cut, drove and even pulled their way to their respective fifties
Meanwhile, the Indian bowlers toiled hard throughout the day and enjoyed success in patches. Though the hosts gained momentum with the two wickets before lunch, they failed to sustain it. At times they also seemed a bit lackluster as they were bereft of ideas. However, at the fag end of the day India did manage to pick up two wickets but by that time a draw was also already written all over the game. Finally, when Virat Kohli shook hands with Peter Handscomb which signalled end of final days play Australia’s scorecard read 204/6.
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