A draw can sometimes mean as much as a win or a loss in Test cricket. Obviously, some matches never threaten to produce a result but the game in Ranchi was Test cricket at its best, with a game moving from a draw to an Indian win and then back to a stalemate in dramatic fashion.
India batted for more than 200 overs in their first innings and took a lead of 152, which meant only the hosts could realistically push for victory. Then late on day four, Jadeja got the important scalp of David Warner and nightwatchman Nathan Lyon to give the Indians a sniff off a remarkable win.
The first session Tuesday raised India’s hopes further with Aussie captain Steven Smith losing his off stump to Jadeja and the visitors four down for 63 and a long way to go until stumps.
But unlike England, who crumbled in the second innings in the Mumbai and Chennai Tests despite scoring 400 or more in the first innings, the Aussies showed far greater application. What’s more, the fifth day pitch in Ranchi was far more treacherous than the ones England faced. Which is why the fifties scored by Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh were at least twice as much on any other wicket.
Handscomb danced down the track at every opportunity, taking Ravi Ashwin on the full and whipping him to the leg side with ease. Marsh had, arguably, the tougher job of facing Ravindra Jadeja bowling into the rough.
He played with soft hands, hit the ball late and trusted his defence to keep the left-arm spinner at bay. Granted, the pitch probably lost its bite as the ball grew older but it was not a flat deck by any stretch of the imagination.
India did try their best, though Ashwin was not at his peak in the Test. Jadeja was relentless while pacers Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav bowled with all their might. But the Aussies simply didn’t buckle under the pressure.
The draw was a perfect result in the context of the series. Both India and Australia have had their ups and downs, having lost their way before getting back on track. Virat Kohli and Steven Smith have ensured their players continue to fight in every session and that has resulted in some superb rearguard action from batsmen and bowlers in the three Tests.
The Ranchi draw means both teams will be quietly confident going into the final Test in Dharamsala, which will be a winner-takes-all contest. India will know they failed to land the final blow even after dismissing the main opposition batsmen fairly cheaply on the final day. Australia too realise that if India had a few more overs to bowl, they could have won the match.
Both camps can also count a fair number of positives. Sure, India will be worried about the form of captain Kohli and Australia of opener David Warner. But all other personnel have played their part at some point or the other. Which should make for a thrilling series finale in Dharamsala.
There are no more surprise packages left, no more players to try out (unless there are any fresh injuries). Whichever team succeeds in Dharamsala will deserve the series spoils as it has been one-all in every sense of the word so far.
A century from Dinesh Karthik guided Tamil Nadu to their fifth Vijay Hazare Trophy title as they defeated Bengal by 37 runs in the final at the Feroz Shah Kotla, New Delhi on Monday.
Karthik came into the final in superb form, having previously notched up one hundred and four half-centuries during the previous rounds of the competition and he looked in fine touch once again.
It wasn’t all rosy for Tamil Nadu though as after electing to bat first, they found themselves in huge trouble at 49-4 at one stage. Karthik, along with Baba Indrajith, rebuilt the innings as the duo put on an 85-run partnership.
In the end, Tamil Nadu were bowled out for 217 with Karthik scoring 112.
Mohammed Shami, who has been out of international cricket for a while due to injury, was the pick of the Bengal bowlers as he took four wickets. Ashok Dinda also impressed with bowling figures of 3/36.
In reply, Bengal lost their first two wickets with just four runs on the board. They never really recovered from that and were eventually bowled out for just 180, despite Sudip Chatterjee notching up a half-century.
Aswin Crist, M Mohammed, and Rahil Shah picked up two wickets each for the champions.
Tamil Nadu 217 all out, 47.2 overs [Karthik 112, Shami 4/26, Dinda 3/36] beat Bengal 180, 45.5 overs [Chatterjee 58, Crist 2/23, Mohammed 2/30, Shah 2/38] by 37 runs.
Congratulations TNCA on a terrific 2016/17 season ! pic.twitter.com/O88nslHH4k— TNCA (@TNCACricket) March 20, 2017
India captain Virat Kohli was full of praise for Cheteshwar Pujara after the end of the third Test against Australia in Ranchi, which ended in a draw.
Pujara was named the Player of the Match for his brilliant performance with the bat as he scored the third double century of his Test career. In facing 525 deliveries during his innings, he created a record for the most balls faced by an Indian batsman in a Test innings.
Kohli feels that people don’t understand the importance of Pujara and what he brings to the Indian Test team. He said that the Saurashtra batsman always puts his hand up when a pressure situation arises.
“Sometimes, I feel really bad for him [Pujara] that, you know, people don’t understand his importance so much in this team and what a valuable player he is for us,” said Kohli.
“He’s the most composed player we have in the team, he’s willing to grind for his runs, he doesn’t mind batting under pressure, he likes to take a challenge of batting long.
“So, someone like that is priceless to have in the team and when the pressure situation comes, he always wants to put his hand up and play long for the team and hold up one end which is a great quality in him.”
In fact, Pujara – during his knock in the third Test against Australia – overtook Kohli as the highest run-scorer for India in their ongoing home season.
In 12 Tests, the 29-year-old batsman has notched up 1259 runs at an average of 66.26 with four centuries to his name.
“This season, he [Pujara] has been understanding. I don’t know the number of runs he has scored, but he has contributed throughout and he’s not been spoken about or been the focus too much, but I think he deserves much more than that,” added Kohli.
“People need to stand up and take notice of what he’s done this season. He’s been outstanding with the bat and I hope he can continue till the last Test match as well.”
Pujara showcasing the art of batting time...a diminishing art in this era. #INDvAUS— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) March 19, 2017