It was the great escape.
India fought – battered, bruised and broken, to claw their way to an improbable but fantastic draw in Sydney.
With the series tied at 1-1, it’s all to play for in the final Test at the Gabba.
India have been plagued by injuries, lost their captain, and have had to field a different playing XI in every Test so far, but to their credit, they have shown tremendous resilience.
Rishabh Pant has been a revelation for India, having scoring 162 runs @ 54, with a highest of 97. His dynamic style of play and aggressive nature visibly threw Australia off their game.
A big blow to India will be fact that three key players who played in the third Test draw have been officially ruled out of the final Test: Ravindra Jadeja (broken thumb), Hanuma Vihari (hamstring tear) and Jasprit Bumrah (abdominal strain).
The injury to Jasprit Bumrah is of particular concern as India’s bowling stocks have been severely depleted, with Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharna and Umesh Yadav already having been withdrawn. India will now be left with a gravely inexperienced seam bowling attack for the final Test, with Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, T. Natarajan and Shardul Thakur, who are all likely to play, having played a combined 4 Tests between them.
Steve Smith, who prior to the Sydney Test had scored just 10 runs in 4 innings, blasted his way back to his best, with a total of 212 runs in the third Test, scoring 131 & 81.
Knowing he wasn’t at full fitness, It was a risk playing David Warner in the third Test, and it didn’t pay off with Warner returning scores of 5 & 13, and showing signs of pain and discomfort. With the series on the line however, Australia may be forced to play him again in Brisbane.
Will Pucovski, who enjoyed scoring his maiden Test half-century on debut in the previous Test also faces questions around his availability as he awaits scan results on his shoulder, which he injured during play on Day 5 of the Sydney Test.
A series as closely contested as this is sure to bring out high tensions and high stress, and Australian captain Tim Paine’s conduct left a lot to be desired, launching a disrespectful sledging tirade on India’s Ravichandran Ashwin, as India fought for their draw. Paine had a disappointing Test overall, dropping 3 catches on the final day alone, and being fined 15% of his match fee for showing dissent and swearing at the umpire.
A fortress for Australia, the Gabba is a ground where Australia have not lost a Test since November 1988. With Steve Smith finding form and Australia’s bowling attack wounded after failing to bowl India out in Sydney, India are in for a real battle if they want to win the series.
A series marred with off-field issues and on-field hostilities & unpleasantness, let us hope the final Test provides us with a fitting end to a simply superb and hard-fought series.
The Test starts at 2am on Friday 15th January.