Ajinkya Rahane helped India pull-off a draw in a nerve-wracking last session after Murali Vijay’s (80) departure in the fourth over of the session triggered a mini collapse. With the fourth Test of the series ending in a draw at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Australia won the Border-Gavaskar, 2014-15 Trophy 2-0.
Chasing 349, after Australia declared their innings on the overnight total of 251/6, Vijay led India’s reply. The batsman, whose name is fast becoming synonymous with patience, held his nerve through tricky passages of time and anchored the innings for over two sessions to keep the visitors in fray. A short while later, with 148 runs needed, Virat Kohli (46) fell to Mitchell Starc, who also claimed Suresh Raina for a duck and Lyon picked Wriddhiman Saha for naught. Claiming wickets at regular intervals Australia seized the momentum. However, ably supported by Ravichandran Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rahane took India to stumps at 252/7.
Earlier, with all three results possible Vijay opened the innings with Lokesh Rahul and held the innings together before handing the baton to Rahane in the last session. He took Lyon on during the first two sessions as the pacers bowled a tight line and dried up runs from one end.
After a circumspect start, Vijay came down the track to Lyon and struck him over mid-off for four. In the spinner’s next over he followed it up with another hit to the fence and a six over mid-wicket. Even as he milked the bowler, Vijay survived as Brad Haddin missed the opportunity to send him back on 24.
With Rahul, he worked to lay a platform for the chase. But with 48 runs on the board, he lost his opening partner to Lyon. As the opener stepped forward the ball turned, grazed the glove and popped to backward short-leg where David Warner took the catch.
Rohit Sharma who then came out to bat, lived dangerously as he stepped out to the spinner at the risk of being stumped. Complementing Lyon, Josh Hazlewood bowled a tight line from the other end and stifled the batsmen. The pacer conceded only a single during his five-over spell and helped step-up the pressure on the visitors.
With the pacers plugging the flow of runs, Vijay and Rohit looked to add to the tally off Lyon. Rohit swept him down the leg side for four and lofted him over mid-off for six.
Brought back in to the attack, Starc asked questions off the batsmen in his three overs before lunch. With Vijay on 35 and Rohit on 19, India went to Lunch at 73/1 with the match precariously poised.
With the wicket offering assistance to the spinner and the pacers keeping the batsmen on a tight leash, India faced a stiff challenge. The Vijay-Rohit pair stood-up to the Australian attack of pace and spin as the hosts fired on all cylinders.
Rohit lofted Lyon for a huge six over the bowler’s head as he looked to get the momentum going in the session. At the other end Ryan Harris continued to frustrate the batsmen and create opportunities for the home team, but was let down by the fielding. Shaun Marsh at short extra cover dropped Vijay on 39.
But Australia got their breakthrough in the next over, as Rohit looking to send the Shane Watson delivery over the slips was caught by Smith diving to his right to pluck an improbable one-handed catch.
Watson and Harris kept Vijay and Kohli on their toes, but the pair played watchfully to negotiate the bowlers. Lyon back in the attack was also dealt with sensibly to keep India in the game.
Driving Lyon to mid-on Vijay posted a vital half-century in the last innings of the series. The spinner was swept to the fence and then whacked to long-on and then took India past 200 with a six while collecting 16 runs from the spinner’s next over.
Needing 189 runs with eight wickets in hand, India had kept the match hanging in balance as they went in to Tea. But 18 runs into the final session, Vijay departed nicking Josh Hazlewood to the wicketkeeper.
Rahane then joined Kohli to keep India in the reckoning. But Starc claimed two in two overs to push India on the back foot. Two balls after edging Starc past gully for four the India captain was caught by Watson diving to his right in the slips. The pacer had Raina trapped lbw, while five runs later Saha was out leg-before. With six wickets down Ashwin battled it out with Rahane as they played for time before he was adjudged lbw off Hazlewood.
Steven Smith attacked with the new-ball wielding Starc and Harris as Rahane strove to farm the strike and see India through. Remaining unbeaten on 38, in a 35-run stand with Bhuvneshwar, he took India to stumps.