Australia 451 (Smith 178*, Maxwell 104, Jadeja 5-124) and 204 for 6 (Handscomb 72*, Marsh 53, Jadeja 4-54) drew with India 603 for 9 declared (Pujara 202, Saha 117, Vijay 82, Cummins 4-106)
“Who what am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine. I am anything that happens after I’ve gone which would not have happened if I had not come. Nor am I particularly exceptional in this matter; each “I”, everyone of the now-six-hundred-million-plus of us, contains a similar multitude. I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.”
-Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
Ahh, India. Where a draw is a win is a loss is a draw and a twist is a turn is a switch is a change and a lead is a chase is a run is a minute.
Ahh, Ranchi. Where the series arrives hot and level at 1-1.
Ahh, Ranchi. Where an Australian first innings of enormity and gravitas and 451 (SPD Smith 178*, GJ Maxwell 104, RA Jadeja 5-124) is wondrously rapturously prematurely celebrated with stories of individuals ponderously and portentously outgrowing overshadowing eclipsing those of the team the team the very team itself (“Smith is a genius,” “Maxwell arrives”) and on the back of those heroics the match turns in Australia’s direction for winning and for keeping and all remaining days are cast as India’s to survive and yet, and yet, and yet. Whatif. Whatif. Whatif.
Ahh, Ranchi. With series level at 1-1 and with the angry combative forces leading India confusing conquest for victory and confusing aggression for tenacity and confusing arrogance for confidence and with reactionary combative forces leading Australia and confusing aggression for spirit and confusing attack for cricket itself and confusing itself of the very idea of stoicism and with a series and with pride and with gloating at stake and with slow motion replays and DRS referrals and cropped images and social media and trial by click and trial by share like retweet and entire young populations self-appointed as judge jury executioner rising falling searching for trumpeted opinion voice finding the latest outrage injustice calamity about which to clatter holler yell scream into the Ranchi ether Indian ether global ether rippling waving bumping floating crashing closing.
Ahh, Ranchi. Where chasing 451 the Indian XI even with a notably meagre contribution from the misguided and misinformed and misbehaving V Kohli complie an epic 603 for 9 declared (CA Pujara 202, WP Saha 117, M Vijay 82, PJ Cummins 4-106). CA Pujara facing an astonishing baffling Incredible 525 balls in anchoring the reply answer return and elevating himself above the plane occupied by mere mortals. And of the 210 overs bowled by Australia this innings, 206 bowled by four men. GJ Maxwell bowling the other four overs.
Ahh, Ranchi. Where eight overs remain on Day four at India’s declaration and the new old MT Renshaw and the known unknown DA Warner take the wicket with the uncharacteristic goal of survival safety security. DA Warner and his known unknown is good for 16 balls and nightwatchman NM Lyon narrowly performs his role by surviving into the last over before stumps and falling and at stumps Australia’s 2/32 looks irretrievably parlous dangerous fatal.
Ahh, Ranchi. With its swings and its roundabouts and its domination and its submission and its ebb and its flow. It is set up.
Ahh, Ranchi. Where a draw is a win is a loss is a draw and a twist is a turn is a switch is a change and a lead is a chase is a run is a minute.
Ahh, Ranchi. It is day five, where the S.S. MT Renshaw and his captain of unflappable countenance SPD Smith navigate the rolling swell and rogue spitting waves of RA Jadeja and R Ashwin to drinks and nudge creep poke the score along at a trickle drip slide.
Ahh, Ranchi. It is day five, and MT Renshaw is lbw before lunch bringing maligned criticised chastened SE Marsh to the wicket in the most hostile torturous fiery of Test cricket circumstances. He must survive. And next over SPD Smith shoulders arms and is bowled bowled bowled before lunch bringing now PSP Handscomb to the wicket and this is indeed a baptism right here right now. He must survive. Thirty minutes to lunch.
Ahh, Ranchi, Where millions of expert eyeballs watch the slow carving of the Australian carcass and the slow burn of the Australian meat and the slow inevitable browning of the Australian psyche. When would the slash come? When would the false shot come? It is lunch.
Ahh, Ranchi. Where screws are tightened and bolts are tightened and clamps are tightened and SE Marsh and PSP Handscomb bat on. And on. And India decide choose opt to review a decision against SE Marsh and that review itself is struck down unleashing a Twitter storm of outrage. With stoicism and single-mindedness unprecedented this century, it is incredibly Australia offering stout resistance and it is outrageously SE Marsh filling the role with aplomb and it is happily PSP Handscomb filling the role with aplomb. It is tea.
Ahh, Ranchi. Where one session remains. Australia 4/149. And one over back india decide choose opt to review a decision against PSP Handscomb and the review is itself struck down causing not only a Twitter storm but leaving India now with no reviews until the 80th over some ten overs hence. And still SE Marsh and PSP Handscomb bat. They bat and they bat and they bat. They bat for survival and for a victory of sorts. It would be a victory of non-defeat. A victory of maintaining a chance to win the series.
Ahh, Ranchi. Where another review after the 80th over and after the second new ball is struck down and SE Marsh and PSP Handscomb are now seen to be occupying that rarefied place of athletic endeavour effort struggle: where struggle is the thing. To be in the moment. To be in the struggle. To recognise and relish and acknowledge the struggle for what it is, and for only what it is: a struggle.
Ahh, Ranchi. And past the last drinks break they grind on on this day five and feel the straps of the struggle and feel the weight of the struggle and feel the lightness of the struggle and dance shuffle step into the lengthening shadows. And it is only with shadows prohibitively long that SE Marsh falls and rapidly GJ Maxwell falls. But the game is over. The game is saved. The game is not won. The game is not lost. The series is not won. The series is not lost.
Ahh, Ranchi. For all the rolling broiling steaming efforts of SPD Smith, GJ Maxwell, RA Jadeja, CA Pujara, WP Saha, M Vijay, PJ Cummins, SE Marsh, PSP Handscomb, we remain at 1-1. Where now could this lofty cricket series turn for its conclusion? Where now could host the final match of a series to have reached such heights? Only a ground in the Himalayan foothills would suffice. Only grandstands that look to have been inspired by Dr Seuss would be apt. Onto Dharamsala.
Ahh, Test cricket.