Batting out 258 balls with a fierce home team throwing everything it had up its sleeves is no mean feat. But the Indian duo of Vihari and R Ashwin stood ground and managed to do just that as they eked out a draw in what was nothing short of an action-packed fifth day in the third Test between India and Australia.
Playing out 131 overs — the most India have batted in the fourth innings of a Test since 1980 — showed exactly what Ashwin meant when he spoke about playing like true warriors at the end of the fourth day’s play at the SCG.
“If you look at the first session and most part of the second session, we were looking good for a win. The way Rishabh [Pant] and [Cheteshwar] Pujara played. To be honest, once they got out, I don’t think a win was a possibility. Even before my injury, Ash [R Ashwin] was struggling with his back, [Ravindra] Jadeja could have played only a few overs if needed. The draw came in when we knew that Ash couldn’t run, and then when my hamstring injury happened. We knew we just had to bat out time. And it is not an easy task [for one partnership] to bat out 43 overs. Australia, day five, against that attack,” ESPNCricinfo quoted Vihari as saying.
“We batted one ball at a time, one over at a time, me and Ash. We had a conversation every over about what we needed to do. The strategy also helped. We got messages from outside but we had already decided that he was going to face [Nathan] Lyon and I would face the fast bowlers. One he was batting well against Lyon and also I couldn’t stretch against the spinner with my hamstring. It panned out well. He was facing Lyon with ease on a day-five pitch, and I was pretty comfortable against the fast bowlers,” he added.
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A hamstring injury notwithstanding, Vihari hit an unbeaten 161-ball 23 while Ashwin hit 39 off 128 balls as the two defended away any hopes Australia had of registering a win. Due to this injury, the batsman missed the fourth Test at Gabba, and he ended up returning back home.
“Two feelings came to mind. One was pain, the other was relief. The pain was there and sigh of relief that I could do the job for the team. It was a sweet pain. The pain was all worth it at the end of the day. If I hadn’t been able to save the match, it would have hurt more. But because we saved the Test, the pain was not so painful,” said Vihari.
“I hardly had any sleep. Again, with pain. One thing was pain and the other thing was I was happy and overwhelmed with the respect and love I got on the internet, in the messages I got. I think I slept for one hour and got up again at 6 in the morning. That is the kind of feeling I got. I would say for all the years of hard work I had done in first-class cricket, where there are no people watching you play and you have to go through the grind and struggle and to have 1.3 billion watching back home and all the people in the world watching you save a Test match… That was the thought that came into my mind. Real satisfaction of going through the grind in the first-class arena and then achieving this, the satisfaction was really amazing,” he added.
When asked about the 36 all-out in the first Test at Adelaide, Vihari said: “After the Adelaide Test, you won’t believe, we as a team we never spoke about the game. We only felt that it has never happened before, I don’t think it will ever happen again. It was a freak inning. So let’s move on and let’s look at it as a three-Test series from Melbourne. Now if you look at it, we have won the series 2-0. The Indian team, the character, and the fight we show, we leave everything on the ground. That’s the hallmark of the Indian team. That’s exactly how we played.”
On Tuesday, Australia’s fortress — The Gabba — was finally breached. It took 32 years and two months, but the unthinkable was achieved as an injury-ravaged young Indian team beat Australia by three wickets against all odds to take the series 2-1.