India v Australia, 3rd Test, Ranchi, 5th day March 20, 2017

Smith proud as 'magnificent plans' come off

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'India must be hurting' - Smith

Steven Smith believes "momentum" is with Australia and India would be "hurting" after a day-five resistance mission in Ranchi kept the series level at 1-1.

Australia refused to crumble on the final day - just like the pitch, despite some dire pre-Test predictions - and their great escape was made possible chiefly by a fighting 124-run partnership between Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh. The pair had come together at a precarious time for Australia, at 64 for 3 after Matt Renshaw and Smith had fallen in the space of four balls towards the end of a morning session.

"I'm very proud. They had magnificent plans," Smith said. "They backed their defence for a long period of time and to see the game out for as long as they did, it was an outstanding performance. I'm really proud of the way they did that.

"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 absolutely magnificent."

As a left-hand batsman, Marsh was particularly tested by the foot marks outside his off stump, which Ravindra Jadeja relentlessly tried to exploit.

"It was tough," Marsh said. "I was just trying to play the ball. If a ball dipped, I was just trying to play the ball. He's a quality bowler and I thought he bowled fantastically well and it was a great challenge out there against him.

"We just tried to keep it as simple as possible. Just to watch the ball and keep playing to our strengths and our game plan, and we didn't try and think about the end result too much - just about playing each ball on its merits. I thought we did that really well together today and I really enjoyed being out there with [Handscomb]."

Australia have already exceeded the expectations of many on this tour, and a draw in the deciding Test in Dharamsala will be sufficient for them to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. India must win the final match to claim the silverware and Smith believes the fact Australia was able to withstand every onslaught from India's bowlers on the final day in Ranchi gives them a slight edge over Kohli's side.

"If there's anything called momentum in cricket it's probably with us at the moment. India coming today would have expected to bowl us out. I'm sure they're hurting a little bit," Smith said. "But having said that it's one-all and we're playing a decider in Dharamsala. Really exciting. Group's looking forward to it."

While Smith rued the fact that Australia had probably left themselves 100 runs short in the first innings, he felt the rearguard action to force the draw would lift his players heading to Dharamsala.

"Petey's looked very good in every game so far without going on to make a score," he said. "And today the way he did that, his 70 not out is worth 150 in my eyes. I thought he played beautifully and Shaun as well.

"I'm sure that all of the boys that batted out in the middle - Renshaw, Shaun and Handscomb - the three that did very well, they'll take loads out of what they've been able to do in this second innings.

"It's never easy batting in the fourth [third] innings of a game in India and trying to save the game, and I was exceptionally proud of the way they all went about their business. They backed themselves to the hilt, we backed them and it's great that they were able to do what they did."

Australia's batsmen ensured that the back-breaking work done by their bowlers on the third and fourth days was not in vain but there is no doubt the toil and grind in the field will have taken a toll on the attack. Smith admitted as much. "I've never spent 210 overs in the field before," he said. "SOK [Steve O'Keefe] was actually joking for a minute there, he bowled 78 overs, if he bowled two more he was going to throw the ball off and get himself a new one from one end.

"It was a long time in the field and credit to India, they played beautifully. [Cheteshwar] Pujara and [Wriddhiman] Saha batted exceptionally well. It was a long time in the field, so credit to our boys the way they came out today after having such heavy legs and spending that time in the field, to still be able hold out for the draw."

Melinda Farrell is a presenter with ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sasikanth on March 25, 2017, 1:22 GMT

    The interesting concept is from Smith and the Aussies on this forum. Won the toss, batted on a great first and second day wicket, Smith scored almost a double century and Maxwell a hundred at a decent strike rate... why is it that Australia were left trying to save the match on day 5?

    Obviously it wasn't such a great plan. To say that Pujara and Saha cost India the game is beyond falsehood. They got India to a position of dominance that the Australians had no response to. Nice try spinning this into a victory for you guys.. You're lucky series isn't 2-1 already

    Also, someone mentioned Indians play for records.. please go and watch Maxwells innings from 95 runs onward.. half an hour of selfish play that doesn't scream the mantra 'There is no 'I' in TEAM'! Please practice what you preach!

  • Wayne on March 24, 2017, 0:03 GMT

    @Sash194. Interesting concept. I'm sure if Smudge had have eaten up 87 overs as Pujara did he'd have been a fair few more than 202 champ! Pujara's snail like innings, combined with Kohli's poor captaincy in declaring the innings closed way too late is what cost India a win as much as the aussie's fantastic day 5 batting against allegedly the best spinners in the business....

  •   Chaturvedi Tony on March 23, 2017, 13:27 GMT

    This is also part of his ' brain fade'... Brain fade got history with aussies .. Trever Chappell suffered by bowling under arm. LOL

  • Abhishek on March 23, 2017, 5:47 GMT

    @SASHI94- very well said! Perhaps Smith is secretly ruing the fact that despite winning the toss, and despite looking in the pole position at the end of day 3, his team was still left to climb a mountain (which they did, to give credit where it's due). But climbing a mountain does not lead to momentum- it only leads to exhaustion! If somehow he still sees it as 'momentum', then others can only help a bemused smile!

  • sasikanth on March 23, 2017, 4:50 GMT

    I didn't forget the 170 odd (on a fresh pitch) .. just thought i shouldn't mention them as those runs don't count.... because these are flat tracks according to the Aussies! also, smith scored a total of 199/ two innings while Pujara scored 202 in one inning.

    We know how it works. They're flat tracks when India score runs. Turners when our bowlers take 5 wicket hauls and your bowlers score double centuries on the runs given column. I've been listening to Hayden and Warney's commentary for a while now. I get the gist of it! I sure am catching on... you guys are desperate for a draw, now be cool!

  • Thomas on March 23, 2017, 3:14 GMT

    Recently Kohli made a remark that we do not give any give preference to individual landmarks. Matthew Hayden few years ago remarked, India comprises of 11 individuals who play for their personal goals and landmarks.

    Now keeping these remarks, isn't this match a clear illustration of how two players grinded out even after outscoring Aussies. Both Pujara and Saha has taken longer time to accomplish their double century and century. In the process, they lost time and Australia could easily draw the match.

    Just imagine, when they trailed 25 runs with six wickets in hand, they should have increased the tempo of scoring. One of the commentators even mentioned that it was about eight overs that was terrible for Australia on the fourth day and what would have been the situation of Australia had they been given another 10 overs!

    It is true. Sometimes these things are forgotten easily but these are realities.

  • Graham on March 23, 2017, 1:17 GMT

    Sashi94 : His magnificent plan was also scoring 180 not out. Fair impost on conditioning to spend all but 30 minutes of the first 4 days on the cricket field.

  • Vintage on March 22, 2017, 23:17 GMT

    Sashi did u forget the 170 odd in between

  • Wayne on March 22, 2017, 20:22 GMT

    Is this really a question of Australia's escape or India's failure? Me thinks the latter. Calling it quits with 4 wickets still in the shed is hardly close just as the 333 run hammering in Pune can hardly be called a fluke. Out thought, out planned and outplayed. Pretty much the story of most of this tour for India.....

  • sasikanth on March 22, 2017, 20:03 GMT

    Smiths "magnificent plan" was leaving the ball to Jadeja and getting clean bowled. Why you might ask? he set up his mates Marsh and Hanscomb for their eventual success and helped them regain their form.

    Smiths totally confused between a "brain fade" and a "magnificent plan". but good luck and may the best team win!

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