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.