Updated: December 30, 2014 4:54:07 pm
The third Test between Australia and India in Melbourne failed to deliver a nail-biting finish on Tuesday but ended with a draw tinged with controversy and the shock retirement of long-serving India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni from Test cricket.
The result secured Australia a 2-0 series victory with a match in reserve, but their triumph was quickly overtaken by the bombshell that Dhoni had pulled the pin on his 90-Test career to concentrate on the shorter formats of the game.
(Also Read: MS Dhoni retires: Best quotes on the legend)
Displaying his usual serenity, the 33-year-old Dhoni said nothing of his retirement plans and the news was broken on the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s Twitter feed only minutes after the final question was asked at the post-match media conference.
(Also Read: Australia pick spinner Ashton Agar for Sydney Test)
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Batsman Virat Kohli, long Dhoni’s heir apparent and stand-in skipper during the first Test loss in Adelaide, will lead the team for the fourth and final match in Sydney, the BCCI added, capping a surreal day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Dhoni, fittingly, played an important part in his team’s gritty effort to stave off a third straight Test defeat on the fifth and final day.
Though Dhoni’s effort was praiseworthy, his counterpart Steven Smith’s decision to concede the draw four overs early, rather than push to the end to get the final four wickets for victory, drew jeers from spectators at the ground.
Smith justified the decision, saying his bowlers were “cooked” and his team mates happy enough with the series win.
That came after a late declaration at lunch that also raised eyebrows, with Australia’s bowlers given only 70 overs to find a way to bowl India out on a flat wicket offering little help.
“I don’t think there was still a win there,” Smith told reporters.
“I don’t think we had four wickets in us at the end — there wasn’t much breaking up in the wicket, there wasn’t much going on, so I think that was it.”
Australia declared on 318-9, setting India a mammoth 384 to win on a ground where the highest successful run-chase was 332 by England back in 1928/29.
For a time, that appeared more than adequate for the hosts, whose pacemen scythed through India’s top order with three wickets in the first nine overs.
Opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan was out lbw for a duck and Lokesh Rahul, surprisingly sent in at number three, was caught the next over for one after a miscued pull shot.
Opener Murali Vijay was dismissed lbw for 11.
Kohli (54) and Ajinkya Rahane (48) dug in to tea, before Harris had Kohli out with the first ball after the break and Mitchell Johnson struck to bowl Cheteshwar Pujara for 21.
A jumpy Rahane was out a few overs later, throwing away his wicket for 48 with a horrible pull shot, but Dhoni and Ashwin would survive, though riding their luck at times.
Dhoni never gave a hint of his plans post-match but praised his players for fighting it out.
“We lost early wickets, we put pressure on ourselves and we had to fight it out and overall it’s a good performance by the team.”
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