Tea Australia 451 and 149 for 4 (Marsh 38*, Handscomb 44*, Jadeja 3-34) trail India 603 for 9 dec by three runs
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb put together a wicketless session © Associated Press
Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb held their nerve admirably to give Australia a chance of forcing a draw with India and retaining parity in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy battle at tea on the final day of the third Test in Ranchi.
Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja defeated Matt Renshaw and Steven Smith within the space of four balls in the morning session to leave the tourists in deep trouble. But Marsh and Handscomb refused to panic, combining for a calm and sensible stand of 86 that prevented India from taking a single wicket in the afternoon session while reducing their lead to just three runs.
Though the surface is still offering lavish turn to the spinners and the occasional instance of variable bounce for the pacemen, Marsh and Handscomb found the going easier as they got established and the SG ball softened. The second new ball, available 11 overs into the final session, looms as India’s last hope.
Smith and Renshaw had begun simply trying to bat for as long as possible, taking occasional scoring opportunities but stripping their games of risk. India’s captain Virat Kohli began with Jadeja at one end and Umesh Yadav at the other, not calling on the offbreaks of the world’s No. 1 ranked bowler R Ashwin.
The plan to Smith appeared to be bowling wide of the stumps while trying to test his patience. He was comfortable in leaving plenty of balls alone while scoring from the occasional ball that strayed onto the stumps. Renshaw had a few awkward moments against Jadeja but overall held his shape well in dealing with the left-armer’s variation between sharp turn and skidding straight balls.
Kohli replaced Umesh with Ishant, who found a hint of movement from around the wicket. Renshaw’s decision to pull away from the first ball of the 29th over of the innings seemed to raise Ishant’s ire, and he hurled down a pair of bouncers in the same over to push the opener back, before thudding into his front shin for the lbw verdict.
Smith had been safe in padding away anything Jadeja served up from over the wicket, but next over he failed to get his front leg far enough down the pitch or in line and heard the sickening noise of the off stump tumbling over. That error put Cheteshwar Pujara’s enormous concentration in perspective, and left Marsh and Handscomb with much to do.
There were plenty of reasons for Marsh and Handscomb to feel overwhelmed when the afternoon session began, but neither was in the mood to give anything away. Their methods offered a contrast of left and right, plus Handscomb’s penchant for getting down the pitch versus Marsh’s long stride down the wicket and outside off stump.
A key over arrived midway through the session when Handscomb took 14 from an Ashwin over, compelling Kohli to take him out of the attack and switch Jadeja away from the end from which he had found spiteful turn to defeat David Warner and Nathan Lyon on the penultimate evening.
Handscomb and Marsh continued to accumulate towards the interval, neither batsman doing anything outlandish but simply showing strong concentration and tight technique to frustrate the hosts, who had seemed so confident of victory little more than two hours before.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo