Battle-weary India stand firm for fighting draw in third Test in Australia

Hanuma Vihariand and Ravi Ashwin ensure series is still up or grabs in final Test

Not out batsman India's Ravichandran Ashwin, right, and Hanuma Vihari walk from the field following play on the final day of the third cricket test between India and Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. The test ended in a draw and the series is at 1-1 all with one test to play. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
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A courageous and injury-wracked India pulled off a remarkable draw in a tense third Test against Australia as they survived against the hosts' much-vaunted bowling attack to take the series into a decider.

They resumed day five at 98-2, needing a further 309 runs after being set a huge 407 to win when Australia declared their second innings at tea Sunday on 312 for six.

No team had ever bettered 288 to clinch victory in the fourth innings at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with Australia achieving that mark against South Africa in 2006.

But India gave it a massive go, passing 288 in the final session to fray the nerves of Australian team throwing everything they had at them.

The visitors abandoned any hope of victory but they bravely clung on for the draw with Hanuma Vihari, nursing a hamstring injury, surviving 161 balls for just 23 runs and Ravi Ashwin, who had treatment on his ribs, making 39.

The 256 balls they faced in their unbeaten partnership of 62 was the most by an India sixth-wicket pair on Australian soil, helping steer them to 334 for five at the close, 73 runs adrift.

Their resistance was built on the back of an explosive 97 from Rishabh Pant and a typically gritty 77 from Cheteshwar Pujara, who passed 6,000 Test runs, but also helped by wicketkeeper Tim Paine dropping three catches.

"Our talk coming into this morning was to show character and fight till the end, not to think about the result," said India skipper Ajinkya Rahane.

"I'm really happy with the way we fought, especially today but throughout the game

"There are few areas we can improve on, but special mention to Vihari and Ashwin. The way they batted in the end and showed character was really good to see."

An absorbing Test was marked by some high quality batting, led by man-of-the-match Steve Smith's innings of 131 and 81, and Pant's 97.

But it will also be remembered for allegations India were racially abused by sections of the Sydney Cricket Ground crowd, with investigations under way and tough action promised against the culprits.

Rishabh Pant of India hits for 4 runs during the final day of the third test match between Australia and India at the SCG, Sydney, Australia, January 11, 2021. AAP Image/Dean Lewins via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. AUSTRALIA OUT. NEW ZEALAND OUT
Rishabh Pant hits out on the final day. Reuters

After Australia won the first Test in Adelaide by eight wickets and India bounced back in Melbourne by the same margin, the series now heads to Brisbane later this week for the final chapter.

It will be a depleted India again at the Gabba, with fast bowlers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav and batsmen KL Rahul out injured.

There are now doubts over the participation of all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who dislocated his thumb in Sydney, and Vihari who could barely run during his rearguard knock.

"I thought we created enough chances to win the game, this one's a tough to swallow," said Paine.

"I thought our bowlers were superb all day, Nathan (Lyon) tried everything, the quicks were awesome.

"Just didn't hold our catches, myself in particular. You've got to cop the blame for that, wear it and move on to Brisbane."

Australia removed openers Shubman Gill for 31 and Rohit Sharma for 52 before stumps on day four, and when Lyon accounted for Rahane without adding to his overnight four in Monday's second over the end appeared inevitable.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: Josh Hazlewood of Australia celebrates after taking the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara of India during day five of the 3rd Test match in the series between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 11, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Josh Hazlewood celebrates after taking the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara. Getty

But Pant, who took a blow to his elbow while batting in the first innings and didn't keep wicket on Sunday, surprisingly came in at No 5 ahead of Vihari and produced some fireworks.

He came to the wicket with no strapping on his hurt elbow and, after settling in and surviving a missed catch by Tim Paine on three, began to hit out, smacking a four and a six off Lyon on consecutive balls.

Batting as if in a Twenty20 match, he then clobbered two more sixes in a row off Lyon before bringing up his third Test 50 off just 64 balls.

Paine dropped him again on 56, both times off Lyon.

He kept the scoreboard ticking over after lunch and a third Test century looked imminent only for the 23-year-old to throw his bat one time too many, caught by Pat Cummins off Lyon.

His wicket shattered a 148-run partnership with Pujara, who resumed the day on nine and slowly reached a second consecutive 50.

In the process he brought up 6,000 career runs, the 11th Indian to achieve the feat, before being bowled by Josh Hazlewood.

That left Vihari and Ashwin to pull off an unlikely draw, with the pair so exhausted that they gave up running between the wickets at the end.