India hangs on for a creditable draw

Opener Murali Vijay batted more than two sessions on a demanding surface offering turn and variable bounce to make a crucial 80. File photo

Opener Murali Vijay batted more than two sessions on a demanding surface offering turn and variable bounce to make a crucial 80. File photo   | Photo Credit: Andy Brownbill

Rahane and Bhuvneshwar bat with equanimity after a familiar collapse; Vijay hits 80

On a rather cold and cloudy day, the heat was on India at the SCG.

Close catchers surrounded the bat, the ball posed searching questions and there was tension in the air. Fervent appeals got the home crowd excited, adding to the drama.

Ajinkya Rahane and No. 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, batting with equanimity and skill, saw through the phase to secure a creditable draw for India on the final day of the fourth Test here on Saturday.

Earlier, opener Murali Vijay batted more than two sessions on a demanding surface offering turn and variable bounce to make a crucial 80.

Declaring overnight, Australia set the visitors a challenging target of 349 runs in 90 overs. India finished at 252 for seven, Rahane (38 off 88 balls) and Bhuvneshwar (20 off 30) undefeated.

Awards for Smith

Australia won the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-0 series triumph. Fittingly, batting legends Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border gave away the trophy. Australia captain Steven Smith, on a roll with the willow, was adjudged Man-of-the-match and Player-of-the-Series.

On the final day though, Smith might have erred in taking the second new ball straightaway.

With the surface becoming increasingly scarred and abrasive, reverse swing could have been a bigger threat. A shiny sphere might not have assisted Lyon too in the final stages.

India, 160 for two at tea, did make a brief push for a victory. Australia made inroads during this period and India shut shop. The pace of the game quickened in this session.

The familiar Indian collapse played out again. The side was in trouble at 217 for seven before Rahane, forsaking his attacking style, and Bhuvneshwar, calm and assured, halted the Aussie surge.

Earlier, on a surface where batting was certainly demanding, Vijay applied himself. There were periods of aggression but also phases of sound defence. His batting was measured and organised.

In what appeared a deliberate ploy to prevent the off-spinner from settling down, Vijay attacked Nathan Lyon.

The right-hander, skipping down, took the mid-off fielder on. Vijay then dismissed Lyon over the mid-wicket fence.

Lucky escapes

Vijay (on 24), though, was fortunate when Lyon found the edge with one that straightened. ’Keeper Haddin grassed the chance. He had the rub of the green on this day. Vijay (on 42) was again put down by Shaun Marsh at extra cover off Ryan Harris.

Then, he was extremely lucky (on 46) to get the benefit of the doubt when an in-swinger from Josh Hazlewood trapped him in front.

Vijay opened out after reaching his half century — wading into Lyon and thumping Watson past point — before edging a cut off Hazlewood to Haddin.

In the morning, Rahul impressed briefly before moving forward and getting into a tangle when a Lyon delivery turned and bounced; he was taken at backward short-leg.

Rohit Sharma (39), who had launched into Lyon, fell to a spectacular gravity-defying catch by Smith in the slips when the batsman was drawn like a moth to flame to a widish delivery from Watson. Rohit had thrown away a good start again.

Virat Kohli (46) was circumspect. The odd boundary notwithstanding, he was knocking the ball into the gaps and running hard. Apart from a moment of anxiety when he almost scooped a return catch for Lyon, Kohli was in control of this innings.

Mitchell Starc ended the Indian captain’s stay, angling the ball across and finding the edge just outside off. The delivery’s teasing line might have evoked the tentative footwork from Kohli.

Nightmare continues

Suresh Raina appeared a man under a mental siege. He survived a king pair and then was set up by quick stuff from Starc. The left-armer soon got one to dart into the left-hander whose feet seemed nowhere. The Indian was right in front. It was his fifth zero in his last seven Test innings.

India was now in a stressful situation. Wriddhiman Saha was undone by a Lyon off-spinner that kept very low.

Ashwin survived 22 deliveries before succumbing to a marginal leg-before decision. Hazlewood had moved the ball into the right-hander.

In terms of control, Hazlewood impressed. He was parsimonious, and did achieve some bounce and away deviation employing his height.

Lyon, however, could have surely bowled better. He should have flighted the ball more.

A rather acrimonious series ended on a sporting note with Smith patting Bhuvneshwar on his back.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 12:13:29 AM |

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