The sentiments from captains Ajinkya Rahane and Tim Paine were understandably in contrast at the end of a gripping fifth day of the Sydney Test. India were three down early in the day when Rahane was dismissed, and faced the prospect of batting out close to a 100 overs with potentially two incapacitated batsmen. One of them, Rishabh Pant, did come out to bat and swung the momentum India’s way before a 42-over rearguard from Hanuma Vihari – who also picked up an injury – and R Ashwin sealed a draw without the tail waiting.
Paine said the result was a “tough one to swallow” for his team, and for himself in particular, having dropped three catches. One of them was that of Vihari late in the day.
“[We were] pretty confident (at the start of the day), with our attack. We certainly created enough chances to win the game,” Paine said in the post-match presentation to the host broadcaster. “It’s a tough one to swallow, particularly given my situation. I thought our bowlers were superb all day. Marnie [Labuschagne] and Nathan [Lyon] tried everything, the quicks were awesome. Just didn’t hold our catches, myself in particular, so we’re going to cop the blame for that and wear it and move on to Brisbane.”
The draw marked the end of a second consecutive match where India have had to make a comeback, for a variety of reasons. In Melbourne, they bounced back from player absences and being 36 all out in the first Test, and the injury situation got worse with blows to Pant and Ravindra Jadeja in the first innings of this Test. Rahane, who remained undefeated as a captain in Tests after the SCG fixture, said the chat in their dressing room was about persisting with that spirit.
“Our talk this morning was about showing character, fighting till the end and not to think about results,” he said. “Really happy the way we fought, especially today but throughout this game. First innings, Australia were 200 for 2, and from there to get them all out for 338 was really good.
“Yes, there are a few areas we can improve on, but special mention to Vihari and Ashwin in the end, the way they batted, [they’ve] shown their character, which was really good to see.”
Underpinning the fight was the bold move to push Pant up to No. 5, above Vihari who usually bats there, despite his having missed the entirety of the third innings when India were on the field. Pant was carrying an elbow injury into the innings, but showed little evidence of that as he counterattacked his way to 97. In the same passage of play during which he fell, India briefly entertained thoughts of chasing 407 down, with Cheteshwar Pujara also going strong at the other end and at least 50 overs to get 157.
While his dismissal – and then Pujara’s not long after – put an end to those aspirations, there was good news at the end for India – Rahane indicated that Pant would be available for the next Test.
“Yeah, credit to him. I mean, we made the strategy, but in the end it’s all about that player showing the character,” Rahane said. “It was all about a left-hand-right-hand combination in the middle that worked out really well for us. Credit to him, the way he batted; attacking innings, backed himself really well.
“Rishabh is all right. Injuries, I think, we cannot control. We are just focusing on the Brisbane Test match. Jadeja…the physios are going to take the call, but apart from that, we have to see how Vihari is feeling. Looking forward to Brisbane now.”
Paine and Australia would also be looking forward to the final Test – which is a must-win if they are to take the Border-Gavaskar Trophy back from India – at the Gabba, which is historically one of Australia’s favourite venues, and potentially a place where his team could hit what would satisfy him as their best.
“As I have said before, we didn’t play our best in Adelaide, or in Melbourne, to be fair. I thought this Test match we showed glimpses of our best. We’re certainly back closer to where we want to be as a batting group, still probably left a few out there in the first innings,” Paine said. “There were some positive signs there and again, I thought our bowlers tried their hearts out, created plenty of chances, plenty of opportunities. The ball was dropping short of the fielders and stuff like that, so it was a whole-hearted effort from the boys and things just didn’t go our way.”
Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo