Ind vs Aus 3rd Test: What started as a Test almost lost for India in the 407 run chase in Sydney, ended as a real psychological win for them – credit must go to Hanuma Vihari and Ashwin. After the fall of Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant, the two half-centurions, Vihari and Ashwin played innings of their lives to survive the most hard 3 hours of their careers. It was a blockathon by Hanuma Vihari, and Ravichandran Ashwin which lasted for 259 balls (43.1 overs) and nearly four hours before both the sides decided to shake hands for a draw. With an injured Ravindra Jadeja waiting in the pavilion, it was important for the two to ensure they saw India to the end and that is just what they did.
Vihari, who had suffered a hamstring injury, early in his innings stood like a wall against Australia’s pace battery scoring 20 off 130 balls. Ashwin, meanwhile, kept Nathan Lyon at bay from the other side and had a more attacking approach. He played 128 balls and got 38 runs on the board which included seven boundaries. The two batsmen, as Indian skipper Ajinkya Rahane during the post-match conference described, showed character and ‘was a delight to watch’.
259 balls, 43.1 overs, 180mins – Hanuma Vihari, Ashwin wins real dog fight against Australia
Ashwin, describing the dressing room atmosphere as ‘electric’ said: “In Test cricket we don’t get a lot of draws, i was a really exciting last session.” He termed facing Pat Cummins as the most difficult part of his solid innings but added facing Jasprit Bumrah in the nets helped.
“Cummins was bowling in a different league altogether. There was a bit of double bounce, so it was difficult against Cummins. I think facing Bumrah in the nets is not easy. We have bowlers who can bowl in the 150s. I have been batting well in the nets, so it was great to spend some time in the middle.
“Chasing 400 in Sydney was never going to be easy, as the ball was going up and down. That knock by Pant set us up. After Pujara and Pant’s wicket and with Vihari injured, it was going to be difficult to go for the win. Touring Australia is never easy so Vihari can be proud of himself. It was a knock equal to scoring a hundred. I was just telling the batting coach during the lunch break that I have never left the SCG without a fifty, this is a venue where I have done well with the bat and today’s innings is right up there,” the off-spinner said.
Furthermore, the duo also did not budge from concentration even after regular sledging by Australian skipper Tim Paine from behind the stumps. The Indians beat the Aussies in their own game and with it won heart of the cricket world.
Harsha Bhogle, commentator for the ongoing tour was in awe with Vihari’s determination in the middle despite uncertainty about his immediate future. “Spare a thought for Hanuma Vihari. Endured a wretched tour, worried about his immediate future, tweaks his hamstring, can’t run…. everything going wrong….then produces one of the finest rearguard actions in Indian cricket,” he wrote.
Batting out 131 overs — the most India have batted in the fourth innings of a Test since 1980 — showed exactly what Ashwin meant when he spoke about playing like true warriors at the end of the fourth day’s play at the SCG. But it all started in the morning when the team management decided to send in Rishabh Pant at the fall of stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane’s wicket. With the game clearly in Australia’s court, Pant decided to show why the team has backed him despite his inconsistent run.
A fearless brand of cricket from him suddenly saw India walking into the lunch break with the score on 206/3. With 201 needed and Pant on a roll, it suddenly looked like India was playing to go 2-1 up in the series. Credit must also be given to Cheteshwar Pujara as he kept the board ticking and didn’t go into a shell.
But Nathan Lyon sending Pant back on 97 suddenly saw the Indian fans fear another collapse. But the out-of-form Vihari wasn’t letting anybody down this time round. He first combined for a short partnership with Pujara and then after the latter’s dismissal for 77, combined with Ashwin to see India home. The scoresheet might call this a draw, but both teams know that India will walk away with their heads held high. Not just that, they will walk onto The Gabba high on confidence after this inspiring effort.
India and Australia are still level at 1-1, which makes the final Test at Gabba very crucial. The fourth Test starts from January 14 in Brisbane.