A fiery Boxing Day Test came to a drawn conclusion as Australia finished four wickets short of a third straight victory over India, but the hosts’ series success was dampened somewhat by captain Steve Smith’s conservative declaration and early concession that a result could not be achieved.
Smith declared at lunch after Australia had advanced to 9/318, setting India an unreachable 384 for victory, before calling time four overs from the end of play with India on 6/176.
On a day that was once again underpinned by verbal sparring between the bitter rivals, Mohammed Shami took the wickets of Ryan Harris (21) and Mitchell Johnson (15) – the latter receiving a heated send-off from the tourists – before innings anchor Shaun Marsh was heartbreakingly, and brilliantly, run out by Virat Kohli on 99.
With 71 overs to survive, India made a disastrous start, Harris trapping Shikhar Dhawan for a duck before Lokesh Rahul’s ordinary debut continued courtesy of another rash shot to be caught off Mitchell Johnson’s bowling; the tourists were reeling at 2/5.
The main protagonist in the sledging war from an Indian perspective, Kohli almost departed in a calamitous run out. Australia failed to capitalise on the gilt-edged chance, but Haddin and Shane Watson let the feisty batsman know all about his near-fatal error.
Murali Vijay then fell leg-before to Josh Hazlewood with India on just 19. Kohli responded the only way he knows how, though, putting on 85 for the fourth wicket with Ajinkya Rahane to take the wind out of Australia’s sails.
Kohli was out to Harris first ball after tea for 54 to give the hosts a sniff, and when Rahane (48) and Cheteshwar Pujara (21) – to a sensational Johnson off-cutter – departed in quick succession, India was 6/142 with 16 overs to negotiate.
MS Dhoni (24 not out) and Ravi Ashwin (8 not out) saw India through to the end of play before Smith’s peculiar granting of an early finish to counterpart Dhoni.
Stud of the day
Love him or hate him, Kohli was superb with the bat and in the field. His dogged 54 – giving him a Test career-best century and a half-century in the same match – was vital to India’s survival. Kohli has proved he has the mettle and temperament to be his country’s long-term skipper, despite the controversy surrounding his ongoing verbal skirmishes with most of the Australian team.
Stud of the match
Ryan Harris took man-of-the-match honours after a magnificent 74 in the first innings, before leading the way with 4/70 in India’s initial dig and taking another pair of key wickets on the last day.
Several sharp chances went to ground off Australian hands with victory still within reach. Perhaps the most crucial were the missed run-out in the early stages of Kohli’s innings, and Shane Watson putting down Ashwin when the all-rounder and Dhoni were both on 1.
The result and the match were arguably overshadowed by long-serving Indian skipper Dhoni bringing down the curtain on his 90-Test career. Kohli showed in the first Test that he is more than capable of taking the reins, while Australia has sprung a surprise by drafting Ashton Agar back into the squad for the fourth Test in Sydney. Despite the Border-Gavaskar Trophy already being in Australia’s keeping, there is still plenty to play for as tensions continue to simmer away. The match will undoubtedly be an emotional one as the teams head to the SCG for the first time since Phillip Hughes was fatally struck by a bouncer there in late-November.
The mercurial keeper-batsman Dhoni retires from the Test arena with a record of 4676 runs at 38.09 – including six hundreds and 33 fifties and a high score of 224 – and 256 catches and 38 stumpings in 90 matches.
Around the world
New Zealand completed an eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Christchurch inside four days, reaching the fourth-innings target of 105 after finally ending the tourists’ dogged second dig at 407. Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum was an obvious man-of-the-match choice after his blazing 195 off 134 balls in the first innings, while Trent Boult finished with match figures of 7/125.