Sport

Unlikely heroes save Test for Australia

Shaun Marsh, right, and Peter Handscomb run between the wickets during in their match-saving parthnership.
Shaun Marsh, right, and Peter Handscomb run between the wickets during in their match-saving parthnership. Aijaz Rahi

SHAUN Marsh and Peter Handscomb last night engineered one of the great saves in Australian Test history to push an all-time epic series to a thrilling decider.

The third Test in Ranchi will go down as a draw, but for an Australian team on the ropes, this felt like the sweetest of victories.

Two down at the start of the day and four down at lunch, the warrior-like 124 run partnership between Marsh and Handscomb which soaked up 232 minutes and 374 balls may well be looked back upon as the stand that created history for Australia in India.

When Marsh finally succumbed for 53 off 197 balls Australia only had 10 overs left to hold on, with Handscomb seeing the fight of his life right out to the end, finishing unbeaten on 72 off 200 balls.

In total Australia survived 100 arduous overs on a surface where a wicket at any point could have sparked a match-ending collapse.

Now one of the most dramatic, venomous and see sawing series since the 2005 Ashes has been given the spine-tingling finale it deserves, with warring arch-enemies Australia and India locked 1-1 heading into the fourth and final Test starting on Saturday at the foot of the Himalayas in Dharamsala.

India were yesterday charging head-on towards a triumphant win on day five when captain Steve Smith had his off-stump catapulted out of the ground by a rampant Ravi Ashwin half an hour before lunch to leave Australia reeling at 4-63.

The image of Australia's most reliable and inspirational figure staring down at his flattened castle having not even offered a shot was enough to send any dressing room into a state of panic, particularly given Matt Renshaw had just departed the over before.

But from a point where recent Australian teams would have plummeted off the precipice, unlikely heroes Marsh and Handscomb picked up the pieces and rescued their side with courageous, backs-to-the-wall performances.

The No.1 bowler in world cricket Jadeja was breathing fire but somehow, Marsh and Handscomb extinguished his domineering presence and struck a killer blow to India's bullet-proof attitude.

Australia finished 6-204, but by the end even if they were bowled out India wouldn't have had time to chase the 52-run lead Handscomb and Marsh had wrestled back.

Marsh is arguably the most maligned Australian cricketer of the past decade, and not always unfairly so given he has a first-class record that hasn't reflected his talent.

But yesterday on a dusty, dying track in Ranchi with his team at crisis point, Marsh delivered a knock for the ages that ranks above his three Test hundreds when it comes to what it means to his team.

This is why coach Lehmann was so adamant Marsh must be rushed back with a silver bullet as the sub-continental specialist for this tour.

Not since 2011 against Sri Lanka, when Michael Clarke and Phillip Hughes combined, has an Australian team batted out a final day to save a Test.

Before that, such a gutsy rescue hadn't happened on the sub-continent for an Australian side since before Handscomb was born, way back in 1989.

But after staring down the barrel of defeat, Marsh and Handscomb have breathed new life into Australia's extraordinary shot at breaking a 13-year drought on Indian soil.

Labelled by Harbhajan Singh as the worst Australian team to ever tour India, this fighting XI only need a draw in Dharamsala to retain the Border Gavaskar Trophy.

However, Smith and Lehmann are marshalling a fearless side that will go all out for victory.

There were some anxious moments for Marsh and Handscomb along the way before their partnership finally ended with Australia already virtually in the clear 38 runs ahead and time almost out.

Handscomb was dropped by short leg Murali Vijay on 6, a sharp grab which could have proved decisive.

Marsh was almost stumped the third ball after tea off Ravi Ashwin, while he and Handscomb both survived DRS appeals on umpire's call that replays showed were both hitting plenty of the stumps.

Australian coach Lehmann acknowledged the previous night that his top order had squandered any chance of winning the game by failing to go big enough in their first innings after winning the toss - with 550 instead of 450 what was required.

However, all things considered, this was a morale-boosting draw.

When the fall of one wicket could have easily led to a collapse, Australia was hanging on by the skin of their teeth after Smith was rolled by Jadeja. 

Coming just three balls after partner Renshaw had been trapped lbw by Ishant Sharma, Australia's most reliable operator had failed to offer a shot to send shockwaves through an already rattled dressing room.

Smith shouldered arms to a Jadeja ball that pitched just outside leg stump, but didn't thrust his pad forward with enough conviction to bump the ball away.

That said, it was a gem of a delivery.

It's the third off-stump Jadeja had knocked over in this innings, as Australia clambered to lunch at 4-83.

Smith and Renshaw started superbly on day five when Australia resumed precariously placed at 2-23.

An hour and a half into the session and Australia were yet to show a weakness, until pace demon Sharma found a way to get inside the head of Renshaw.

News Corp Australia

Topics:  peter handscomb shaun marsh steve smith test match cricket tour of india


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Shark removed from rock wall at Ballina

A dead shark washed up on the rocks at North Wall.

Dusky whaler shark removed for research

Dalwood waterfall up for sale

Two people have died at Dalwood Falls, Ballina.

How would you like to own your very own waterfall?

Marathon fight against "horrible" disease

Headshave team captain Suanne Richards (left) helped to raise $2,000 at Relay for Life on Saturday.

"It's really hard being on the sidelines of all this.”

Local Partners

Bungawalbin hunkers down again as rain revisits

A RISING watertable and incessant rain mean more flooding for Bungawalbin residents who are still recovering from the earlier downpours.

Future Islands gear up for Splendour gig

Future Islands is an American synthpop band composed of Gerrit Welmers (keyboards and programming), William Cashion (bass, acoustic and electric guitars), and Samuel T. Herring (lyrics and vocals).

Their new album is "music from the heart than from the mind".

The Lyrical, beyond the 'F' word

Roots, Hip-Hop and Reggae artist Karl Smith, also known as The Lyrical.

Hiphop artist brings his latest music to the area

CMC Rocks is just the ticket for Eric Paslay

HAPPY TO BE HERE: American country singer Eric Paslay will play CMC Rocks 2017.

Country music singer is touring overseas for the first time.

Gogglebox shock: ‘This is so bloody juicy’

THE Gogglebox households can’t quite believe their eyes as they watch one of the most scandalous TV...

New Oscars fiasco safety net

IN A monumental stuff-up, La La Land was incorrectly named Best Picture. During the acceptance speech, the real winner was revealed.

Academy ‘won’t sack PwC’ but new safeguards in place.

Frozen’s original ending was much darker

Disney’s hit movie Frozen nearly turned out very, very differently.

IF THE original script had gone ahead, Frozen would have been grim.

Bea's parting gift: The Freak's in the frame

Pamela Rabe stars as Joan Ferguson in a scene from season five of the TV series Wentworth.

Gripping prison drama Wentworth returns for a volatile fifth season.

What's on the big screen this week

A scene from the movie The Lego Batman Movie.

LEGO Batman and Scarlett Johansson take on Beauty and the Beast.

MOVIE REVIEW: Crazy Boss Baby story is a little far-fetched

A scene from the movie The Boss Baby.

After nailing Trump, Alec Baldwin’s career takes a strange detour.

MKR’s Amy blasts Josh’s ‘sl*t’ slur

Amy Murr, pictured with brother Tyson, said rival contestant Josh Meeuwissen crossed the line when he called her a ‘sl*t’.

AMY responds after being called a ‘sl*t’ by MKR’s villain Josh.

Luxury hotel expands $400m water park development

Developer to push on with second stage of massive new water park

Dalwood waterfall up for sale

Two people have died at Dalwood Falls, Ballina.

How would you like to own your very own waterfall?

It's official: Byron Bay unaffordable

MILLIONAIRES ROW: The Housing Commission house in Keats St, Byron Bay which sold at auction on Saturday for $1.65 million.

Buying a home in Bay Bay is a dream too far for some

Northern Rivers vacancy rates slip backwards

LITTLE ROOM: Vacancy rates on rental properties have dropped by .5% in the Northern Rivers to just 1.1%.

Northern Rivers rental housing shortage beats Sydney

Coast home luring interstate buyers sold

PRIZED POSITION: Blue clip location, peaceful surroundings, spacious living with swimming pool, tennis court on 4562sq
m

The property was described as a 'Queenslander with Hamptons style'

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!