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.

Damage in Logan 'considerable' after floodwaters peak

Floodwaters creeping up to the M1 in Logan.

Damage to Logan described as 'considerable'

Body of missing man found in flooded Logan suburb

Cameron Power paddles in his backyard, as the paddle shows the depth ahead of the Logan River peaking at Waterford today.

Logan River set to peak at 2pm Saturday.

WATCH: Whirlpool forms in Logan floodwaters

Mt Lindesay Highway cut off at Jimboomba. Pic Mark. Calleja

Logan River is expected to break previous flood records

Local Partners

Madonna biopic in the works

MADONNA’S life as a rising pop star in New York in the early 1980s is set to be documented in a new biopic titled Blonde Ambition

Billionaire Elon Musk and Amber Heard hit Shingle Inn

Amber Heard and Elon Musk enjoy a bite to eat at the Shingle Inn, Broadbeach.

Actor Amber Heard and billionaire Elon Musk are enjoying Qld

New Netflix doco on JonBenet Ramsay's death makes huge claim

A new documentary will air claims that child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsay was murdered by a paedo sex ring.

New claims that JonBenet Ramsay was killed by a paedophile sex ring

Movie review: Guardians Of the Galaxy Vol. 2 delivers on all fronts

Star-Lord/Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and Drax (Dave Bautista) in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.

Does Guardians Vol. 2 live up to high expectations set by original?

Sir Elton John hospitalised with rare infection

CROCODILE ROCKER: Sir Elton John will head to Mackay in September for the first stop of his Australian tour.

Elton John cancels shows after becoming violently ill.

Sunshine Coast singers out to turn chairs on The Voice

NEXT BIG THING? Tune in to see Glasshouse Mountains folk artist Benjamin James Caldwell on The Voice.

Do our Coast folk singers have what it takes to turn judges' chairs?

Former Glee star Lea Michele posts nude selfie to Instagram

Former Glee star Lea Michele has posted a very revealing snapshot

Lisa Curry and fiance sell up Sunshine Coast property

I'm a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here! contestant Lisa Curry with partner Mark Tabone after being evicted from the South African jungle. Picture: Dylan Robinson ***EMBARGOED 7:30pm March 9th***

Plans for dream home on hold at Mount Mellum place on market

SOLD: Iconic M'boro pub set to be transformed

Shane Muller from Maryborough Motorcycles will be opening up a showroom and café at the Shamrock Hotel.

The Shamrock Hotel is set to be transformed in the next two months.

Coast developer looks to prime real estate's future

MANY OPTIONS: Sunshine Coast developer Graeme Juniper is considering what to do with a prime piece of real estate he owns on Radical Bay on Magnetic Island, near Townsville.

Radical Bay is World Environment Heritage-listed.

This small box of a unit just sold for $1 million

Elizabeth Bay unit has charming views to Sydney Heads.

If this doesn't scream 'housing bubble', nothing does.

DREAM HOMES: 10 properties with a million-dollar price tag

5 Lawson Street, Laguna Quays

10 properties in the Mackay region with a million-dollar price tag.

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!