Ranchi: Steve Smith has boldly declared the momentum of the series is firmly with Australia heading into the decider after the visitors defied the odds to save the third Test.
Nanjing Night Net

The Australians were under extreme pressure from the moment India rescued their innings on day three through to the finish but are buoyed by their escape.

India, however, will also have tremendous belief in their camp after recovering from a tricky position to get themselves to the point where they were hot favourites to win the game.

Smith was fearing the worst after his dismissal shortly before lunch but was saved by dogged half-centuries from Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh. Smith rated Handscomb’s unbeaten 70 as worth 140 due to the conditions and the perilous state of the game.

They batted for eight minutes shy of four hours to turn what appeared impending defeat into a fighting draw, ensuring the series remains locked at 1-1.

What seemed unthinkable a month ago – Australia retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy or even winning a series in India – remains in play going into the fourth Test in Dharamsala starting Saturday.

“If there’s anything called momentum, it’s with us at the moment,” Smith said.

“India coming into today would have expected to bowl us out. I’m sure they’re hurting a little bit in their change room.”

India captain Virat Kohli said his team had plenty to take out of the stalemate. They were playing to win whereas Australia were saving the game.

“It’s a matter of individual perception. I will see the positives I can draw from it. We’re happy where we positioned after them after the first innings, did not have to play the second innings,” Kohli said.

“They were playing for a draw. They’d notice their positives. One match left, both sides would give their best.”

Handscomb and Marsh embodied the resilience the captain believed was missing during the team’s horror run against Sri Lanka and South Africa and in past failed missions to the subcontinent.

“I’m very proud, they had game plans, they backed their defence for a long period of time. To see the game out for as long as they did was an outstanding performance,” Smith said.

“That’s one of the things we’ve been talking about – being resilient and sticking out the tough times. The way Petey and Shaun did that was magnificent.”

The match appeared headed for a swift finish when opener Matt Renshaw and Smith departed in the space of four balls

“It wasn’t ideal to lose two set batters at once. That’s something we always talk about here in India to not lose wickets in clumps,” Smith said.

“It wasn’t ideal but I have faith in the boys behind me. Peter’s looked very good in every game so far without going on to make a score.

“Today the way he did that, his 70 not out is worth 140 in my eyes. I thought he played beautifully and Shaun as well.

“They stuck to their plans throughout and never shied away from it.”

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