Australia will go into the series deciding fourth and final Test on a huge high after Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh had played the innings of their lives yesterday at Ranchi.
Skipper Steve Smith and a determined Matt Renshaw opened proceedings on the final day with a minimum 90 overs to face to save the Test after India led on the first innings by 151 runs.
It was one helluva ask to survive, but Australia did it superbly against the equal top-ranked Test bowlers in the world – spin twins Ravi Ashwin, and Ravi Jadeja on a wicket tailor-made for them.
This was a scoreboard to read without runs, but rather balls faced to soak up time.
And it makes for riveting reading.
Peter Handscomb – 200 deliveries.
Shaun Marsh – 197.
Matt Renshaw – 84.
Steve Smith – 68.
David Warner – 16.
Matt Wade – 16.
Glenn Maxwell – 15.
And nightwtchman Nathan Lyon – 7.
That adds up to 603 deliveries faced for the 100 overs of the innings, plus the three no-balls.
Renshaw and Smith set the pace with 152 deliveries between them, before Renshaw was trapped in front, and for some unfathomable reason the skipper shouldered arms, and lost his castle.
That left the Handscomb and Marsh stand as the most likely to save the Test, even though there was a long way to go.
Both have had a very ordinary series – yet their 62-over stand was pure class.
It’s been 32 innings since an Australian pair has posted a Test century partnership for the fifth wicket, but at Ranchi they did it twice.
The Smith-Maxwell partnership of 191 off 354 deliveries dominated the baggy green’s first innings total of 451.
Yesterday Marsh and Handscomb put on 124 off 373 on the most difficult of pitches against the two best spinners in the world.
Marsh and Handscomb will never play better digs for Australia, with Marsh saving his career.
And they proved the perfect foil of left-hander Marsh, and right-handed Handscomb, as the two Ravis tried in vain to separate them.
Their dot balls tell the story of the Australian’s patience.
Jadeja bowled 230 dot balls in his 44 overs, Ashwin 148 in his 30 – totalling 378 – from their 74 of the 100 overs.
That alone defied the cynics, many of whom wrote off the Australians by predicting they would be all out by lunch.
I’m waiting for the knockers to step forward to say the were very wrong, and salute the draw.
But I won’t be holding my breath, just as I won’t be expecting the army of Glenn Maxwell supporters to explain why he only faced 15 deliveries for his couple of runs with 29 minutes left on the clock.
There was still a danger of defeat, but Handscomb and Wade safely saw Australia home.
So the fourth and final Test at Dharamsala will be the series decider with Australia on a massive high saving the Test, while India will still be smarting at not putting Australia away when they had all the elements in their favour.
That puts the baggy greens in the box seat to turn the screws for Steve Smith to hold aloft the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
And no doubt throw the odd smiling glance towards Virat Kohli.