Facing an insurmountable 384-run target after Australia declared their innings at the stroke of lunch, India pulled off a draw at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Having lost the first two games, the visitors' conceded the four-Test series and the Border-Gavaskar trophy to Australia. (Also See: HIGHLIGHTS: AUSTRALIA VS INDIA - 3rd TEST, DAY 5, Melbourne)
Left reeling on 3/19, Virat Kohli (54) and Ajinkya Rahane (48) stabilised the Indian innings and fought to keep the team in the fray taking India to tea in an unbroken stand. But Kohli's departure pushed India further on the backfoot even as Rahane determinedly anchored the innings until Josh Hazlewood ended his defiance. MS Dhoni and Ravichandran Ashwin held the innings together until play was called-off. (Also See: India's greatest Captain MS Dhoni Retires from Test cricket)
Chasing the stiff target, India lost Shikhar Dhawan to Ryan Harris with just with two runs on the board. Lokesh Rahul who then walked in to bat ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara followed him back in the next. The debutant who opens in the domestic circuit was in the middle to negotiate the new ball returned for one. Looking to take on Mitchell Johnson, he swung his bat and top-edged the short pitched ball behind the wicket and Shane Watson running back from the slips took the catch.
At 2/5, Kohli joined Murali Vijay in the third over. Ten runs later, he too would have been back in the hut had Australia not missed the opportunity for a run-out while attempting an extra run. Three overs later, the opener was adjudged lbw off Josh Hazlewood leaving India gasping on 19/3 in 8.1 overs.
Rahane then joined Kohli in steadying the faltering innings and pulled Hazlewood over midwicket to get off the mark with a boundary. While they picked a boundary at regular intervals both played circumspectly to ensure that India didn’t lose a wicket.
Rahane reached the 1000-run mark in the longest format in the game with a boundary behind point off Harris.
The Kohli-Rahane pair blunted the Australian attack to take the visitors to tea at 104/3 in an unbroken 85-run stand. While Rahane survived a tough chance earlier in the second session; Kohli too received a life as Nathan Lyon failed to collect the throw from point while the batsman was well short of his crease in the over before tea.
But on the first ball of the final session Kohli flicked Harris straight to Joe Burns at square-leg and departed for 54.
Cheteshwar Pujara who replaced him in the middle was tested by Harris and Johnson. He struck Johnson straight down the ground to get off the mark as he joined in the effort of averting a loss. While the duo prodded on, Steven Smith brought himself into the attack as Australia searched for a wicket. And Johnson provided the breakthrough. After setting Pujara up with a couple of bouncers one of which hit the batsman’s helmet, the bowler knocked back his off-stump with a slower one.
A while later, Rahane perished to a pull shot for 48 after toiling on for 117 balls. Hazlewood kept the hosts in the reckoning with the crucial breakthrough. With MS Dhoni yet to open his account, Ravichandran Ashwin joined in the effort of pulling off a draw. Edges flew as the pair strove to stay at the crease. But the India captain and the lower-order bat took the team to a draw. India were 174/6 when play ended.
Earlier, three balls after an early start to play rain stopped play without any change to score-line. Eight and half overs and 17 runs later another spell briefly interrupted play. When it resumed, Shaun Marsh and Harris added to the sizeable lead at an unhurried pace. While the Indian bowlers toiled Australia trudged on.
In the last quarter of the session, Mohammed Shami got Harris to nick to the wicketkeeper and depart for 21. In the next over, Marsh was let off by Ashwin off his own bowling. The batsman entered the nineties with a straight six off the next ball and with a boundary and two he was on 98 at the end of the over. However, the middle-order batsman was run-out for 99 while scrambling for the all important single in the next an over later.
Australia didn’t declare even after Marsh’s departure and Hazlewood joined Lyon at the crease. With the last pair in the middle the session was to be extended by half hour but with Australia declaring their innings on 318/9 lunch was taken as due.
Debut: KL Rahul for India and Joe Burns for Australia
Match result: Draw
End of Day 1: Australia 1st inn 259/5 in 90 overs (S Smith 72*, C Rogers 57, S Watson 52, M Shami 2/55, U Yadav 2/69)
End of Day 2: Australia 1st inn 530 all out in 142.3 overs (S Smith 192, R Harris 74, M Shami 4/138, R Ashwin 3/134); India 1st inn 108/1 in 37 overs (M Vijay 55*, C Pujara25*, R Harris 1/19)
End of Day 3: India 1st inn 462/8 in 126.2 overs (V Kohli 169, A Rahane 147, R Harris 4/69)
End of Day 4: India 1st inn 465 all out in 128.5 overs (M Johnson 3/135); Australia 2nd inn 261/7 in 75 overs (C Rogers 69, S Marsh 62*, I Sharma 2/49, R Ashwin 2/56, U Yadav 2/73)
End of Day 5: Australia 2nd inn 318/9 decl. in 98 overs (S Marsh 99, M Shami 2/92); Australia 2nd inn 174/6 in 66 overs (V Kohli 54, A Rahane 48, R Harris 2/30, M Johnson 2/38, R Hazlewood 2/40)
Man of the Match:
Steve Smith: "It was a tough 5 days for us on a good wicket. We dropped a few important chances, so I am disappointed not to get the win, but we take the Series. I thought they had a lot of powerful batters in the shed and didn't want to give them a sniff. We got close in the end but it wasn't quite enough. Ryan was outstanding through the whole match, and our tail wagged again thanks to him. I can't wait to get out there next week."
MS Dhoni: "Quite happy with the draw. Pleased with the bowlers especially Ashwin. We bowled good lines and lengths and by doing so were threatening. We have found ways to trouble ourselves, we get good partnerships going and then played too many loose shots. The wicket was on the slower side and there was reverse swing, it was difficult but that is just cricket. I am happy with the draw."