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Explained: How is the Sydney Test draw as momentous as a win for India?

India vs Australia 3rd Test: India earned a draw in the third Test in Sydney on the back of a memorable fourth innings batting performance. In terms of effort, it was almost on a par with the Oval in 1979.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty , Edited by Explained Desk | Kolkata |
Updated: January 14, 2021 12:12:19 pm
Australian captain Tim Paine, left, congratulates not out batsman Ravichandran Ashwin following play on the final day of the third cricket test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (AP)

India earned a draw in the third Test in Sydney on the back of a memorable fourth innings batting performance. In terms of effort, it was almost on a par with the Oval in 1979.

How resolute was India?

As a CricViz Analyst tweet put it, this was the longest India batted “anywhere” in a fourth innings since 1979. In 1979 against England at the Oval, faced with a fourth-innings chase of 438, India made 429/8, batting 150.5 overs. At the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Monday, India earned a draw, batting 131 overs and scoring 334/5 in their second innings. Four batsmen – Cheteshwar Pujara, Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari and Ravi Ashwin – played 100-plus deliveries to secure the draw.

India vs Australia, Day 5 of Sydney Test Rival captain’s Australia’s Tim Paine, left, and Ajinkya Rahane gesture to each other following play on the final day of the third cricket test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia, Monday (AP)

How steep was the degree of difficulty?

To start with, India came to the third Test with one experienced fast bowler – Jasprit Bumrah – at their disposal. Ishant Sharma missed the series. Mohammed Shami’s arm fracture in the first Test in Adelaide ended his Australian sojourn. Umesh Yadav suffered a calf muscle injury during the second Test in Melbourne and returned home. India had Mohammed Siraj – playing only his second Test – and debutant Navdeep Saini alongside Bumrah. They lost the toss and bowled first, a significant disadvantage, given the SCG pitch’s propensity to offer turn and become a bit up and down as the game progressed.

Then, the visitors lost Ravindra Jadeja to a finger fracture. The southpaw was the team’s most successful bowler in the first innings with four wickets and also the side’s only genuine allrounder. During India’s second innings, although Jadeja was padded up, Ashwin came ahead of him and remained unbeaten till the end. Vihari pulled his hamstring very early into his innings on the final day. He could barely move between the wickets but remained unbeaten, facing 161 deliveries.

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Not out batsman India’s Ravichandran Ashwin, right, and Hanuma Vihari walk from the field following play on the final day of the third cricket test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Did the alleged racist abuse make things tougher?

Siraj, along with Bumrah, was at the receiving end of alleged racist abuse from some fans. A player who lost his father only a couple of months ago, it was a pretty tough situation. As Ashwin told reporters after the fourth day’s play, such crowd behaviour was not new at the SCG. “We have faced racism in Sydney earlier too. It needs to be dealt with iron fist,” Ashwin had said at the post-day press conference. Against adversities on (injury-wise) and off the field, the team, however, came together and put up a spirited display.

Where does this effort rank in terms of India’s fourth innings performance?

The glorious run chase in the third Test against the West Indies at Port of Spain in April 1976 that saw India score a then-world record 406/4 in the fourth innings to pull off an improbable win will remain the benchmark. The run chase at the Oval, riding on Sunil Gavaskar’s 221, came very close to topple that. In terms of courage and resolve, India’s effort at the SCG, against a world-class Australian bowling attack, will be right up there.

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