Australia’s defiant day-five Ranchi rearguard was set up by a brilliant partnership between the tourists’ newest odd couple, and their skipper couldn’t be prouder.
Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh added 124 vital runs but more importantly soaked up precious time and deliveries, facing 373 balls in just under four hours to guide Australia to a draw and turn the fourth Test in Dharamsala into a winner-takes-all decider for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
The Victorian and the Western Australian, separated by eight years in age, are in essence two very different people.
Handscomb is a right-hander, a dasher with an unusual stance who doesn’t mind using his feet to get to the pitch of the ball, or to bust out a move on the dance floor.
He’s extroverted, has a full grasp on social media, fashion trends and isn’t averse to saying a few words on the field.
Report, highlights: Handscomb, Marsh inspire Australia's great escape
Marsh is a left-hander, a measured batsman with a precise, proper stance who knows his game inside and out after 17 first-class seasons.
He’s introverted, married with a young son, hasn’t tweeted in almost two years and when it comes to style is by every definition a ‘Nerd’.
But those differences matter not when the two best Test bowlers on the planet are hungry for wickets on a day five pitch that, despite its previous four days of generous hospitality to the batsmen, was playing the occasional trick from out of the rough.
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Together, the pair handled everything thrown at them for 62.2 overs and was the embodiment of the adaptability and resilience their captain had demanded of his players before series start, and the captain couldn’t keep his satisfaction a secret when he fronted the press after play on Monday.
“I'm very proud,” Steve Smith said of the two members of the match-saving partnership. “They had magnificent plans.
“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 touch times.
“The way Petey and Shaun did that was absolutely magnificent.”
Handscomb made 72no from 200 balls while Marsh posted 53 from 197 deliveries as both refused to waiver from their tailor-made approach.
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“We just tried to keep it as simple as possible,” Marsh said. “Just to watch the ball and keep playing to our strengths and our game plan.
“We didn’t try and think about the end result too much, just about playing each ball on its merits and I thought we did that really well together today and I really enjoyed being out there with him.
“It was a great day for us.
“Great to be out there with Petey as well, I thought he batted fantastically well.”
India (for third and fourth Tests): Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandaran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Karun Nair, Jayant Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund.
Australia: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Stephen O'Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade
Australia's schedule in India
Feb 23-27, First Test, Pune - Australia won by 333 runs.
Mar 4-8, Second Test, Bengaluru - India won by 75 runs.
Mar 16-20, Third Test, Ranchi
Mar 25-29, Fourth Test, Dharamsala