Injured Indians save an excitingly electrifying Test to stay level

By Kersi Meher-Homji

One usually associates a drawn cricket match as boring. But the Sydney Test ending yesterday was far from it. I would describe it as electrifyingly exciting. I, along with all spectators at the Sydney Cricket Ground, were spell-bound by the heroics of Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandra Ashwin.

Needing a near impossible 407 for a record-breaking victory, India was all but beaten when hard as rock Cheteshwar Pujara was dismissed for 77. India was 5 for 272 then and an Australian win looked certain. Still 135 runs needed for an unlikely win, especially as the flamboyant Ravindra Jadeja was injured with a dislocated finger.

But cometh the hour and cometh the heroic batsmen, Vihari and Ashwin. When batting Vihari pulled his hamstring and Ashwin had severe back pain. They could barely walk let alone run but stayed unbeaten facing 289 deliveries from pace bowlers Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazelwood and world-class spinner Nathan Lyon.

They added 62 gallant runs for the unbroken sixth wicket to salvage a draw which appeared lost. But Vihari and Ashwin defended as if their life depended on it and the Test was drawn. Today’s Sydney Morning Herald headlined the story Incredible India.

Incredible indeed. Before this partnership, Rishbah Pant (97 aggressive runs with 12 fours and three sixes) and solid as rock Pujara (77) gave India a slim chance of victory. But after their dismissals, Vihari and Ashwin slammed the door shut, refusing to run singles as they could barely walk.

They were probably inspired by children’s chants of “Vihari, Vihari” and “India, India”. As I walked out of the Press Box I could also hear adult Australians singing “India, India”!

Now the Test series is locked at 1-all with the final deciding Test starting on Friday.

A happy Indian skipper Ajinkya Rahane said at the presentation: “I think our talk this morning was showing character and fight till the end. It was fightback from the first innings itself. I think getting Australia all out for 338 from 200 for 2 in the first innings was pretty great and special efforts from Vihari and Ashwin. It was a ploy to have right-left combination in the middle but credit to Pant. Injury-wise Pant is looking good, Jadeja the physio will take the call and Vihari we don’t know yet. Looking forward to Brisbane.”

Readers, as you have read the match reports in newspapers, I won’t repeat the match description but give below the Highlights, Lowlights and Quirky Sidelights of the Sydney Test.


Young Australian opener Will Pucovski made a promising Test debut scoring a fluent 62 before being dismissed by debutant Indian seamer Navdeep Saini.

Despite rains delaying the match on the opening day, an out of form and much criticized Steve Smith and the steadfast Marnus Labuschagne remained unbeaten at stumps, the score being 2 for 166.

Indian bowlers, especially spinner Jadeja, hit back on the second day as the home team tumbled from 2 for 200 to 338 all out.

Opening batsman Shubman Gill and Pujara scored 50 each but India was bowled out for 244, Cummins capturing 4 for 29. Commentators see some resemblance in the batting style of Gill and the elegant VVS Laxman.

With Jadeja unable to bowl, Australia declared at 6 for 312 (Labuschagne, Smith and Cameron Green batting aggressively ”“ especially newcomer Green smacking four sixes).

Chasing 407 for victory, “Pantastically fantastic” Pant and Gavaskar-like Pujara gave Indians hopes. But it did not last long before it was the Vihari ”“ Ashwin stand which saved the match for India as described above.

For his 131 and 81 Steve Smith was adjudged Man of the Match.


The racial abuses to Indian fielders Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj by a few spectators is unforgivable. Fortunately, they were evicted from the ground. It is pleasing to note that Cricket Australia is taking strong action to curb such insults to visiting cricketers.

Quirky sidelight

At stumps on days 1, 2, 3 and 4, the batting team had lost two wickets each. To make it more incredible, the same two batsmen from Australia and the same two batsmen from India were unbeaten at the end of the day.

Australia was 2 for 166 at stumps on day 1 (unbeaten batsmen being Smith and Labuschagne). The same two batsmen were unbeaten at stumps on day-3 when Australia was 2 for 103.

India was 2 for 98 at stumps on day 2 (unbeaten batsmen being Rahane and Pujara). The same two batsmen were unbeaten at stumps on day 4 when India was 2 for 98.

Amazing, eh?

Hope the injured Indian cricketers show quick recovery before the Brisbane Test starting on Friday.

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