Ranchi Test, Day 5: Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh's fifties force draw to keep series alive
While India made a comeback after claiming the wickets of Matthew Renshaw (15) and Steve Smith (21) before lunch, Marsh and Renshaw frustrated the hosts' bowlers in the second session where visitors refused to lose a wicket.
Ranchi: Peter Handscomb (72*) and Shaun Marsh (53) played two gutsy knocks as third Test between India and Australia ended in a draw at JSCA International Stadium Complex.
The tourists were 204/6 at the end of 100 overs when Virat Kohli shook hands with the two Australian batsmen.
While India made a comeback after claiming the wickets of Matthew Renshaw (15) and Steve Smith (21) before lunch, Marsh and Handscomb frustrated the hosts' bowlers in the second session where visitors refused to lose a wicket.
But Handscomb and Marsh, whose 53 came off 197 balls, ensured that the Australians stayed afloat to fight another day. They continued with the good work even in the final session and it was only in the 92nd over that India got a breakthrough when Marsh gave an easy catch towards short leg to Murali Vijay off Ravindra Jadeja's bowling.
Earlier in the morning session, India looked good for a win by claiming Renshaw and first innings unbeaten centurion Smith in the space of four balls.
The Australians found themselves at a rather precarious 63/4 in a gripping end to the first session on the fifth and final day.
But thereafter Australia got a grip of the situation while India struggled to break the partnership on an eased-out track of the JSCA International Stadium.
But just when the crowd went silent, Ranchi's icon Dhoni lifted the atmosphere when he made an entry and watched the match from the second session onwards.
Back from Delhi after leading Jharkhand in the national one-dayers, Dhoni was seen in a relaxed mood and waved at the cheering crowd.
On the field, Smith's ploy to give his top four the maximum workload when they bowled 206 overs meant that Indian could not score quick runs.
By batting 200-plus overs and with a lead of just over 150, India had no more than 100 overs to force a result.
But Jadeja gave the side a good shot at a result by using the wearing track brilliantly. He cleaned up Smith after Ishant's dismissal of Renshaw in an eventful 29th over.
The breakthrough came after Smith and Renshaw held on for one and half hours in the morning.
Smith, who scored a spectacular 178 not out in the first innings to lead Australia to 451, misjudged a probing line from Jadeja with the ball pitching between middle and leg.
He shoulder-armed the delivery and the ball turned viciously after landing on the roughs of the footmarks to uproot his off-stump.
Just in the previous over, Sharma set it up brilliantly to dismiss the left-handed Aussie opener.
Noticing some activity near the sight-screen, Renshaw decided to pull out. Ishant, having already bowled four overs at a stretch, threw the ball in his follow through out of frustration.
The throw went wide off Renshaw but it led to an exchange
between Ishant, Renshaw and Smith. The umpire, however, quickly defused the situation by calling in Indian skipper Virat Kohli.
Following a couple of minutes delay, Ishant finally resumed his over and charged Renshaw with a short-pitched ball which hit the youngster's thigh pad.
The delivery climbed straight up to hit Renshaw's chin through the gap of the helmet grill. Ishant followed it up with a bouncer that swung past Renshaw from a middle stump line, putting the opener under pressure.
Finally, the breakthrough moment came for India when Ishant cramped Renshaw for room with a full length delivery that trapped the left-hander right on front.
Ishant exulted with an animated celebration and capped the brilliant over with a bouncer to Marsh, which hit the batsman's ribs.
Jadeja then delivered the biggest wicket by claiming the Smith with the first ball of the next over. Following the dismissals, the Indians had a spring in their step before Handscomb and Marsh's recovery act unfolded.
Surprisingly, Kohli brought Jadeja only after 11 overs in the post-lunch session even though Ashwin looked ineffective on the flat deck.
The return of Jadeja led to India bowling four maiden overs in a row from 50th to 53rd overs.
But the Aussie duo did not mind the slow flow of runs and were successful in the recovery act in the second session that yielded 66 from 33 overs but more importantly without any wicket.
Handscomb survived a scare on six when his flick to short leg was nearly caught by Karun Nair, the only blip in an otherwise clean knock.
After three matches, the series is levelled at 1-1. The fourth and the final Test is scheduled to be played at Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharmasala from March 25.
(with inputs from PTI)
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