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India vs Australia 3rd Test: In One of The Greatest Saves Of All-Time, 'Brusied' India Show Character

The 11th of January, 2021 will go down as one of the greatest days in Indian Test cricket history.

India vs Australia 3rd Test: In One of The Greatest Saves Of All-Time, 'Brusied' India Show Character

India, somehow, pulled off the impossible January 11, 2021 will go down as one of the greatest days in Indian Test cricket history. With their back against the wall, the team fought against injuries, the best pace bowling attack in the world in their own backyard and a lot of Australian banter on and off the field playing out 131 overs in the 4th innings to earn a remarkable draw in the third Test in Sydney. This monumental effort means that not only have they kept the series alive but frustrated the Australians and will go into The Gabba, where they do not have a great record, with a psychological advantage.

What India did today at the SCG is the stuff of legends and a once in a decade (or even more) effort. It was a draw which was as good as a win and will go down as one of the greatest saves in the history of Indian cricket. India lost just three wickets on the last day in Sydney and played out as many as 97 overs against the best bowling attack in the world to salvage a stunning draw. They lost their captain and hero of the MCG win, Ajinkya Rahane off the 10th ball of the day. Everyone had written off India. Game, set, match Australia. Millions of television sets were switched off in India. Former Australian legends on commentary predicted that the match would be over by Lunch.

But as India displayed in Melbourne, they wanted to fight and challenge Australia and were determined to do so. The first masterstroke, for which the credit again has to go to the stand-in-captain, Rahane, was to send Rishabh Pant ahead of Hanuma Vihari. India needed a stroke-player to take the attack to the Australians and upset their line and length and rhythm. They needed to break the monotony of just playing out overs and time for there were too many left in the match and the bowlers were on top. Just defending would not have saved the match for India. They needed to disrupt the proceedings and sending Pant was a smart and calculated risk.

And it paid off. After getting his eye in, not only did the swashbuckling left-hander put together a match-saving stand of 148 with Cheteshwar Pujara but also gave a real scare to the Australians before he was finally dismissed for a magnificent 97. Half an hour more of Pant and India could have well gone on to win the Test! What makes Pant's knock even more special is the fact that he was carrying an elbow injury which he sustained in the first innings - it showed his toughness, resolve and temperament. Had India not sent Pant up the order and gone with the usual order with Vihari, in all likelihood, they would have been bowled out by Lunch or an hour after. Pant rattled the Australians. They got defensive. The bowlers were taken by surprise. It was against the run of play. All the great plans were foiled. The bowlers lost their domination and it was only possible through that counter-attacking performance by Pant.

Pujara, criticised for his slow batting and intent in the first innings, silenced his critics with quintessential Pujara defiance in the second - he played 205 deliveries for his 77 and was the rock for most of the Indian innings. He again showcased what he is made of. But at 272 for 5 in the 89th over with 42 overs left in the day's play, with an injured Vihari, Jadeja with a broken thumb and R Ashwin the only recognized batsmen left, almost all predictive tools gave Australia a 90% chance of victory.

But then the unthinkable happened. Vihari batted with a hamstring injury and a limp and put together a match-saving unbeaten partnership of 258 deliveries with R Ashwin for the sixth-wicket to save the Test for his country. He remained unbeaten on 23 but more significantly played out 161 deliveries showing courage, character and determination not to throw away his wicket. Despite the injury and questions about his place in the team Vihari played the most important innings of his career to ensure that India still go to Brisbane with a chance of winning the series. He was batting for a place in the team. There were calls to throw him out of the XI some even suggesting he should never play Test cricket for India - Vihari put all of that behind him and batted with one purpose - to save the match for his team. And he did.

If Pant was needed at 5 to play the way he did, India needed Vihari at 6 to bat out time and overs. They needed someone with patience and resolve and a good technique and temperament to frustrate the Australians and just bat and bat and bat. It was a plan perfectly executed for India. The counter-attack of Pant and the sheer doggedness of Vihari blended perfectly to save the day for India.

Ashwin played his part too. He batted for 128 deliveries - the most he has faced in the 4th innings of a Test. In fact it was more than double of his previous best of 53 deliveries. As revealed later by his wife on Twitter, the off-spinner had tweaked his back and was in considerable pain the night before. And yet to come up with the best batting performance of his career spoke volumes of his character.

Also, the fact that Jadeja, ruled out of the series, was waiting to come out to bat, had the Vihari-Ashwin partnership been broken, was another indicator of what this Indian team stands for. They did not want to lose this Test at any cost and players were sacrificing the individual for the team to achieve this.

It was the third time in India's Test history that four batsmen faced 100-plus deliveries in the 4th innings of a Test - Pujara, Pant, Vihari and Ashwin - all playing their roles to perfection. India batted 131 overs to earn a draw. It was the joint fourth-best effort by India in the 4th innings (in terms of playing out overs) while successfully saving a Test. The number of overs batted out by India were also the most by an Asian team in the 4th innings to save a Test match in Australia. Chasing 390, India played out 131 overs against Pakistan in Delhi in 1979 reaching agonizingly close at 364 for 6 before the match ended in a draw. They played out 150.5 overs against England at The Oval earlier that summer and almost chased down 438 ending with 429 for 8. Sunil Gavaskar had recorded 221.

India's total of 334 in the last innings is their third-highest 4th innings' total in Australia after 445 (1978) and 355 (1968). India had lost both those Tests in Adelaide in Brisbane which basically means that SCG 2021 was India's highest 4th innings total in Australia in a draw. In fact, the next highest 4th innings score for India in a draw in Australia was also at the SCG - India managed to score 252 for 7 and hold on for a draw in Sydney in 2015. The 131 overs India played in the 4th innings at the SCG were also the third-highest in Australia after Adelaide and Brisbane.

India lost only three wickets on the final day in Sydney. Only once since 2001 have three or fewer wickets fallen on the final day in a Test in Australia - South Africa played out 126 overs to save the Test at the W.A.C.A. in 2005. They lost just three wickets on Day 5.

Just to put into perspective, statistically, the monumental achievement of India in managing to draw this Test - there have been 501 instances when a team has been set 350-plus in the 4th innings in Test cricket. On as many as 363 occasions, the team chasing has lost, ie a whopping 72.45%! The team batting fourth has won, drawn or tied only 138 times (with 127 draws), ie only 27.55%.

India came into the third Test without Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and three of their main strike bowlers - Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. Jadeja, Pant and Vihari were injured during the match. They were facing a full-strength Australian XI - with Warner, Smith, Labuschagne, the pace trio and Lyon. Injured, bruised, put in one quarantine after the other, subjected to mental disintegration by the Australian players - past and present before the start of the match and to verbal chit-chat and banter during the course of the Test - yet, this Indian team, against all odds, against history came back, fought, gave the Australians a real scare and then walked away with a draw as good as a win in Sydney. This is why what transpired in the five days at the SCG was so special.

SCG 2021 will go down as one of the greatest draws of the five-day game and a defining moment in India's Test cricket history.

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1 New Zealand 3198 118
2 Australia 3028 116
3 India 3085 114
4 England 4326 106
5 South Africa 2499 96
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1 England 5405 123
2 India 6102 117
3 New Zealand 3716 116
4 Australia 4344 111
5 South Africa 3345 108
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1 England 6877 275
2 Australia 6800 272
3 India 10186 268
4 Pakistan 7516 259
5 South Africa 5047 252
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