Ranchi will test the mettle of Australia’s batting

David Lord Columnist

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    Cheteshwar Pujura’s patient double century at Ranchi yesterday has turned the third Test into a match only India can win.

    It took Pujara an Indian-record 525 deliveries, eclipsing legend Rahul Dravid’s 495 for his 270 against Pakistan at Rawalpindi in 2004.

    That gave India an unexpected 152-run lead over Australia’s 451, setting up a fascinating final day.

    With a minimum 540 deliveries to face, and already two down, the bottle of the Australian batting will be sorely tested.

    With David Warner and night-watchman Nathan Lyon the casualties, skipper Steve Smith and Matt Renshaw will resume later this afternoon.

    It just so happens they are the only two Australians who have been consistent performers in this series.

    Smith, the only two-time century maker on both sides, is averaging 87 and Renshaw is averaging 43 with a top score of 68.

    Remember the Australians only needed 188 to win the second Test, but were bundled out for 112

    So Australia will rely on Smith and Renshaw to set the scene and bat for a long time.

    The first target is 152, but realistically Australia has to bat out the day, it’s as simple, and as difficult, as that.

    Next up will be Shaun Marsh, and how often have we said it, his Test career is again on the line.

    He’s been blessed so many times by selectors, but this is it.

    Marsh has managed a 66 in this series, but only averages 18. It’s definitely head down and bum up for the Western Australian today.

    Then there’s Peter Handscomb who went into this series with a Bradmanesque Test average of 99.75 on the back of two centuries and two half-centuries in seven visits, three of them not out.

    Australian batsman Peter Handscomb

    That has been cut to a more realistic 55, however he’s had a start in every dig in India with 22, 19, 16, 24, and 19, but hasn’t gone on with it.

    Today would be the perfect time to start.

    Then there’s Glenn Maxwell, fresh from the innings of his life with a maiden Test ton that didn’t include one reverse sweep, nor a ramp.

    Not interested in the fact one dig isn’t a career, countless Maxwell supporters were very quick to say ‘I told you so’ after the three figures, but today will be vastly different.

    If Maxwell has to bat, Australia will be in deep trouble and demanding the Victorian sees the side safely through to stumps and a draw, with no heroics.

    If the rest of the order – Matt Wade, Pat Cummins, Steve O’Keefe, and Josh Hazlewood have to bat – the troubles will be dire, forcing all four to raise their batting bar to heights they’ve never reached before.

    Yesterday I predicted Australia would win this hard-fought series, and I stick by that prediction.

    This team under Steve Smith has bottle. Today they will prove the point to keep danger men Ashwin and Jadeja at bay to go into the fourth and final Test at Dharamsala for the decider.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn’t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world’s great sporting spectacles