The Border-Gavaskar Trophy remains at 1-1 thanks to an incredible performance from Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh in Ranchi.
Against all odds Australia held on for a famous draw on day five of the Third Test in India, thanks to the heroics of middle order duo Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh; two contrasting cricketers at very different stages of their careers.
Handscomb, 25, is flourishing thanks to a fantastic start to his international career; Marsh is eight years his senior and seems to be playing for his livelihood every time he strides to the crease for Australia.
Both have vastly different techniques but on Monday demonstrated the same desire as they set out to blunt the host’s charge at a victory.
It was a rapid turn of events that saw Marsh then Handscomb arrive to the crease shortly before lunch. Captain Steve Smith had just fell due to an error of judgement off of a Ravindra Jadeya delivery and Matthew Renshaw had departed only a matter of balls earlier.
The Aussies were still some 89 runs behind India’s first innings total with over two sessions of cricket to survive
Every obstacle seemed present for Australia. Marsh is a nervy starter, who usually scratches around before getting settled into an innings whilst Handscomb, a great player of spin, is still a novice in the test arena.
Coupled with a dry wicket still giving plenty for the spin bowlers and an Indian side and crowd ensuring the environment remained hostile; Australia were seemingly in disarray.
Handscomb and Marsh decided to bat time, padding away deliveries outside the line and defending everything that threatened the stumps, making opportunities for India scarce and the loss of a wicket a non-negotiable.
To throw down the anchor like this and engage in a block fest is the not the Australian way of cricket, which has a culture bred on aggressive and attacking play.
The effort Handscomb and Marsh produced however presented something more, a gritty style of fight that has been sorely lacking from Australian cricket for many years.
Such was the desperation, a maiden over was seen as win for Australia, simply for the fact that they hadn’t lost a wicket.
Indian pitches have a tendency that sees one wicket bring two, highlighting the important of Handscomb and Marsh’s stand, and shown when Glenn Maxwell poked an edge to a fielder following Marsh’s eventual departure later in the day.
It was clear that the loss of either Handscomb or Marsh prematurely could likely influence a collapse which would see India claim victory as Indian captain Virat Kohli rotated Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja from over and around the stumps.
Marsh fell halfway through the last session for 53, with the game forced out of India’s reach, whilst Handscomb remained at stumps on 72 not out.
Handscomb and Marsh’s stand of 124 runs off of 373 balls won’t break any records, but it is a momentum changer heading into the penultimate match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Dharamsala.
With the series still tied at 1-1 Australia will be eying its first test series win in India for thirteen years.
In some cases in test cricket a draw will feel like a victory, that may be the case for the Australian’s heading into the final test after pulling off the great escape in Ranchi.