India survives, Aussies regain Border-Gavaskar Trophy

Shaun Marsh fell one short of a maiden Test ton at home.   | Photo Credit: Andy Brownbill

As he walked away after saving the third Test for India, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s visage revealed little.

Inside, he must have been engulfed with emotions. It was the long-standing Indian captain’s last Test match.

The BCCI announcing the 33-year-old Dhoni’s decision to retire from Tests soon after the match concluded here at the MCG came as a shock to many; Virat Kohli will skipper India in the last Test, beginning in Sydney on January 6.

Ironically, Dhoni’s game-rescuing act in his final Test came as a sharp contrast to his otherwise explosive ways with the willow.

The result of the Test that ended here on Tuesday also meant Australia, taking a winning 2-0 lead in the four-Test series, had regained the Border-Gavaskar series.

Australia, with Shaun Marsh making 99, declared its second innings at 318 for nine.

Set to chase 384 in 70 overs, India was 174 for six when both sides agreed for a draw.

As the game entered the decisive final phase, Australia did not seize a vital chance that came its way. Shane Watson smelt the grass but came up with nothing.

R. Ashwin (on one) edged paceman Josh Hazlewood and a diving Watson could not hold on to the sphere in the cordon.

Dhoni (24 not out), getting behind the line and fighting hard, and Ashwin (eight not out) held out for nine more overs. The Test was drawn.

Lack of intent

Australia’s lack of intent with the willow in the morning and a delayed declaration – the side batted 23 overs while scoring 57 - at lunch dented its victory chances.

The host’s decision to settle for a draw with four overs remaining also surprised some, given that India’s weak tail would have been exposed had a wicket fallen.

Kohli (54) and Ajinkya Rahane (48) played their parts in India avoiding a 3-0 deficit.

Rahane had the rub of the green on 22 when he failed to keep a cut off Johnson down. Chris Rogers, at gully, did not time his jump properly.

Kohli was fortunate that bowler Lyon did not collect the throw from point but was dismissed soon, after tea, unable to keep a flick off Ryan Harris down.

The right-hander had won the much-awaited confrontation with Mitchell Johnson, twice pulling short-pitched deliveries from the paceman past the ropes apart from cover-driving him.

The pitch did not break up but there was some reverse swing – because of the hardness of the surface – and cut for the pacemen.

Rahani, once again getting into good positions for the horizontal bat shots and timing his drives and flicks capably, impressed.

However, his miscued pull of Hazlewood when India was fighting for survival, suggested this talented cricketer needed to read situations better.

Cheteshwar Pujara, pushed into the No. 6 slot, showed some determination before being out-thought by Johnson. The left-armer struck Pujara on the helmet grill after the batsman had ducked into the bouncer.

Johnson followed that with a peach of a ball, delivered wide of the crease from over the wicket that pitched on off and straightened to castle Pujara.

Then, Dhoni and Ashwin joined hands.

Jolted upfront

The visitor was jolted at the start. Harris exploited Shikhar Dhawan’s angular bat swing to win a leg-before decision against the left-hander with a ball that darted back.

A top-order batsman, K.L. Rahul, came in for Pujara at No. 3, but suffered another moment of ‘brain freeze’ on his debut.

The right-hander attempted to pull a Johnson bouncer from outside off and his resultant top-edge was well held by Watson, running back from the cordon.

Murali Vijay was shaping well when he was wrongly adjudged leg-before – replays showed the ball was missing leg stump – to Hazlewood.

In the morning, Australia did not force the issue. And India, not taking the second new ball, was content bowling to defensive fields.

The left-handed Marsh has flair but seemed to be playing for a hundred. He was fortunate on 88 when off-spinner Ashwin put down a hard-hit return catch.

The southpaw missed his third Test century by a run – he was consumed by a Kohli direct hit – and walked back disappointed.

The last memory from the match was Dhoni shaking hands with the Australians after the conclusion of an outstanding Test career.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 3:11:46 AM |

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