The aches and pains they carried to the field had numbed to such an extent by the end of it all that Ravichandran Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari had no idea what they had pulled off by steering India to an unforgettable draw against Australia with their three-hour vigil. Ashwin came in with a sore back, Vihari had a hamstring tear that severely restricted his ability to run between the wickets. What the two did not lack was the resolve to hang in there and fight.
“With his hamstring and my (sore) back, we did not want to lose concentration and play a (bad) shot. In the last four-five overs we knew we were close and we started to slip a bit. So we wanted to rotate the strike and play each other’s end,” Ashwin said in a ‘bcci.tv’ interview which also featured Vihari with him.
“We did not even celebrate towards the end because we did not know what to make out of it. Because we were so channelised in taking on a certain particular bowler and keep blocking.” Vihari added a touch of extra optimism to the conversation, saying that he could have taken India to a win had he not been injured and Cheteshwar Pujara (77) stayed a bit longer.
“Getting a draw was a fabulous result. I feel if I was not injured and Pujara stayed some more time it could have been a different result, maybe it would have been a fabulous win,” he said. Ashwin made 39 not out off 128 balls and Vihari 23 not out off 161 ballson day five of the third Test against Australia for a resolute 62-run sixth-wicket partnership.
“If you talk about premonitions, from when I went to bed last night with a sore back I was telling myself that if I keep dead batting everything, how (Faf) du Plessis did at Adelaide, I can give myself a good chance,” Ashwin said. In the Adelaide Test in 2012, du Plessis batted for more than one day for his 110 not out off 376 balls to save the match against Australia while chasing 430 in the fourth innings.
Ashwin elaborated on how he felt pain at the start of his innings. His wife Prithi had earlier tweeted that he was struggling with back pain on Sunday night. “When I went in to bat, (Nathan) Lyon was bowling. I stretched in first three-four balls, and my back was shooting through from my lower back to neck. I told him (Vihari) I should not have played that shot over the top because it completely tweak it out.
“If I gave it a break for an over, my back was getting stiff again. So I told him I will stay and keep playing because if I don’t play it stiffens up and I have to get the chest guard on. “In the middle of a Pat Cummins spell we found ourselves in the eye of the storm. There was a bit of luck and I think we got through pretty well.” The senior off-spinner said the way Rishabh Pant (97) attacked the Australian bowlers, it gave everybody hope that something fantastic could have been achieved.”But nevertheless Pujara and Rishabh laid the foundation of what we were able to see through the last two and half hours and may be three hours.”
On communicating with Vihari all through their partnership, Ashwin said, “Runs were not important in that situation. It was more about batting time. Whenever we are comfortable with a particular bowler or ceratin spell we wanted to hang on.Vihari said the enormity of what he and Ashwin achieved is sinking in very slowly for him.
“It was something you can only dream of, batting on day five of a Test match. The satisfaction of doing that is slowly sinking in and realise how big that was.” He said like en elder brother, Ashwin was communicating with him throughout in the middle. “Whenever he felt I was a bit loose (while playing shots), he told me let us focus and take as deep as possible.”