SCG Test, Australia v India, Day 5: India hang on for a tense draw

As expected Steve Smith declared overnight setting India a 349 run target, a run more than the famous tied test of Madras between the two sides. To put things into perspective the target was 61 runs more than Australia’s highest chase on this ground, and a whopping 314 more than that of a visiting team.

It was a probing start from Harris and Starc as India could score just five runs in the first five overs. That included a beautiful straight drive for four from Rahul to Harris. Smith threw the ball to Lyon in the sixth over, and things started happening.

There was definite intent from India against what was going to be their biggest threat on this day 5 pitch. Vijay skipped down the track to hit Lyon over mid-off in his second over. Then did the same in his third over, as the ball went crashing towards long on fence. The next ball was sent gloriously for a six over mid-wicket fence. Having conceded 25 runs in his first three overs, Lyon was under pressure, and India were off.

Lyon came back with the scalp of Rahul, who didn’t get to the pitch of the ball and ended up gloving it to leg slip. Lyon could’ve had Sharma stumped next ball but for the absence of a frame. For the next 38 balls, Australia didn’t let India score. It was top quality pressure bowling.

Massive advantage Lyon had over Ashwin was that he was backed up by the pacers from the other end who didn’t let the batsmen off the hook. Hazlewood bowled four maidens on the trot after Rahul was dismissed providing perfect support. There was applause from the crowd as Sharma finally got off the mark on the 21st ball he faced.

Sharma took the risk and broke the shackles as he swept Lyon for four followed by a loft over mid-off that cleared the rope. So at the end of an absorbing session India went to lunch at 73-1. The session was dominated by Australia, but India did well to not lose more than a wicket and fall too far behind in the game.

Rohit Sharma began the afternoon session in style carting Lyon way back over the sight screen. But he struggled against Harris who was getting the ball to cut back in off the seam. Harris created a chance, as he induced Vijay to drive one on the up straight to Marsh at short cover, but Marsh put down a difficult chance. The frustration showed on the bowler causing an unnecessary overthrow later in the over to bring up India’s 100.

The fact that Harris was getting some reverse prompted Smith to turn to Watson. Australia had just started to wilt a little when Sharma poked at a wide one from Watson and Smith pulled off a one handed stunner flying to his right to lift his team.

And Australia could have had Vijay in the next over when Hazlewood, who at one stage had given just one run in his first seven overs, got one to tail back in and hit Vijay plumb in front. However, the umpire, thought otherwise. A catch dropped, a stunner taken, a plumb lbw denied, significant reverse swing happening and the test match had suddenly came alive.

Kohli brought a sense of calm to the wicket, and Australia couldn’t tie him down. They did tie Vijay down though. Vijay who had got to 46 with a boundary off Harris in the 37th over had to wait till the 52nd over, when Lyon came back into the attack, to get his half century. Continuing his liking of Lyon, Vijay teed off in the bowlers next over that yielded 16 runs- two hits to the fence and one over it. The late onslaught meant India took tea on 160-2, and with just an outside chance of pulling off something special.

The thin flame of hope burned a little bright when Vijay launched a counterattack after tea that saw 20 runs being scored of the first three overs. However, Hazlewood, who had toiled hard all day without any luck got one to bounce a little and took the top edge of a Vijay square cut and Haddin made no mistake behind stumps.

It was a commendably selfless end to an innings of a man who has been dismissed three times in the nineties in the past year. India didn’t shut the shop when Vijay got out. Kohli and Rahane were positive especially in their running between the wicket in their short stand, before Mitchell Starc got Kohli to nick a drive behind on 46, 8 short of 700 runs this series, and ensured Raina bags a king pair in his next over to turn the game around.

There were just over 21 overs to go when Saha came in. 18.5 overs left when a Lyon delivery stayed extremely low to trap Saha who was playing back, dead in front. A calm Rahane was watching the collapse from the other end. The ghosts of Adelaide had started to reappear.

However, at Adelaide India didn’t have Ashwin and Kumar. And that turned out to be the difference today. Ashwin hung around for 43 important balls with Rahane before Hazlewood’s reverse swing proved to be too good for him. 70 balls to go, 3 wickets to take. Australia were still slight favourites.

Smith opted for the second new ball. It was a tough call and the benefit of hindsight is good, but the new ball took away the threat of reverse swing which is more than handy especially against the tail. Rahane and Kumar showed great composure and survived those nervous final moments with eight men around the bat to guts out a commendable draw for India.

The 2-0 scoreline doesn’t reflect how closely fought this series was, with all but one test being decided in the final session. India’s batsmen have grown in stature after this series, and at the end one couldn’t help but think that if only India had half a decent bowling attack, the result of this series could have been different.


About Viraj Deshpande

A 22 year old journalism grad and an absolute cricket tragic who believes test cricket is greater than everything else under the Sun. Viraj spends his afternoons-evenings-late nights-early mornings running


  1. ‘Rahane and Kumar showed great composure and survived those nervous final moments with eight men around the bat to guts out a commendable draw for India’ – good call Viraj.

    Not too sure about Smith’s captaincy though. More aggression in field placings might have brought more aggression from the Indian batters. It was set up for an exciting finish but the contest just limped across the line. Maybe he’ll grow in confidence when he’s not just the stand-in captain.

    And let’s not get on to the Australian catching and feilding.

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