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Marsh and Handscomb grind out draw to set up series decider

Cricket

India's Australian physio Patrick Farhart is in the middle of the latest ruckus between captains Virat Kohli and Steve Smith which erupted in Ranchi after the third Test ended last night in a dramatic draw.

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Smith and Kohli publicly swapped pleasantries prior to the start of the four-Test series between Australia and India, but there has been almost non-stop niggle on and off the field during the past three weeks between two leaders who have a history of run-ins.

The latest twist in the rivalry relates to Kohli’s shoulder injury. Smith took exception to an atypical taunt from his counterpart on day five.

“Virat was having a go at me out in the middle and saying how I was disrespecting Patrick Farhat, when actually it was the exact opposite,” Smith said.

“I am a bit disappointed, I didn’t actually do anything.

“He’s a terrific physio and does a great job for their team. He did a pretty terrific job to get Virat back on the field after that shoulder injury.”

Farhart, who worked tirelessly on Kohli’s shoulder after he strained it on day one, remains friends with many members of Australia’s Test side. He was the team physio of NSW and Sydney Sixers prior to joining India.

Kohli was forthright after Smith’s illegal glance to the stands in Bangalore, accusing Australia of systematically cheating in the game by seeking external advice regarding reviews.

In Ranchi, the firebrand offered a more obtuse allegation after play.

“These things happen on the field. They, four or five of them, they started taking Patrick’s name,” Kohli said.

“I don’t know why. He’s our physio. His job is to treat me. I didn’t find the reason behind it. I couldn’t understand.

“You must ask him why they started taking his name, no idea.”

Footage emerged on day three of Smith seemingly giving Kohli a send-off by grabbing his shoulder, having just taking the slips catch to dismiss the out-of-form batsman.

Another angle confirmed it was an illusion; it was a teammate’s celebratory hand on Smith’s shoulder.

However, Glenn Maxwell did grab his shoulder on day three after diving to stop a boundary in a near-identical replay of the incident that forced Kohli off the field.

A fired-up Kohli, who has managed just 46 runs at 9.2 in this series, responded by grabbing his shoulder while wildly celebrating the wicket of David Warner late on day four.

Kohli refused to answer a question regarding his send-off of Warner.

The recriminations followed a remarkable final day in Ranchi, as Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb dug deep to help Australia salvage a draw from the third Test.

The visitors resumed at 2-23 and slipped to 4-63 during yesterday’s morning session.

Marsh and Handscomb responded with a game-saving stand of 124 runs that soaked up 374 balls and almost four hours. Stumps were finally pulled with Australia leading by 52 runs at 6-204.

The result was somewhat of a moral victory for Smith’s side, who were batted out of the contest by double-centurion Cheteshwar Pujara on Sunday.

The four-Test series remains level at 1-1. The visitors boast the upper hand heading to Dharamsala, where the decider starts on Saturday. Australia hold the Border-Gavaskar trophy and will retain the silverware if the series is drawn.

Handscomb, who finished unbeaten on 72 off 200 balls, and Marsh, who scored 53 from 197 balls, earned standing ovations from teammates after resisting star spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

It’s as good as a Test hundred

“It was nervous,” Smith said.

“I’m proud of the way the boys stuck it out. That’s what we want to be, resilient.”

The final-day stonewall, one of many scenarios that Australia trained for during a pre-tour camp in Dubai, was remarkable for several reasons.

It was proof Australia’s batting order could not only function but thrive with minimal contributions from their two best batsmen, captain Smith and vice-captain David Warner.

Smith failed to play a shot to a sharp-turning delivery from Jadeja in Monday’s morning session, while Warner was clean bowled by a near-unplayable ball from Jadeja the previous night.

It was also a sign of how the side’s mindset has changed on this trip. It was exactly the sort of desperation that had been so severely lacking in a nine-Test losing streak in Asia, which was riddled with collapses and finally ended with the series-opening boilover in Pune last month.

Australia hadn’t successfully batted time for a draw since Michael Clarke and Phillip Hughes ground out dour tons in Colombo some five and a half years ago.

“They’ve tried everything India. Over the wicket, around the wicket. Both spinners, both quicks. It’s not through lack of trying, it’s a credit to the Australian batsmen,” Clarke said on Star Sports.

“It’s as good as a Test hundred (from Handscomb and Marsh). It should give them that bit of confidence to go on and make a hundred in Dharamsala.”

Handscomb is just the third Australian to face 200 or more balls in the fourth innings of a Test this decade.

Kohli, though, made it clear he was unhappy with how quickly the SG balls went soft in the third Test.

Many pundits suggested the pitch assisted Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh, but Kohli was more worried about the ball.

The skipper repeatedly spoke with umpires and tried to get the ball changed. It was a common theme during the match, in scenes reminiscent of a drawn Test at the WACA in 2015.

Kohli complained about the quality of the balls in the post-match ceremony, and then again in his press conference.

“I don’t think it was the wicket, it was the ball. Soft, not doing much,” Kohli told reporters.

“The hardness of the ball was a big factor. When the ball was new last night, it spun well off the rough. Even this morning, it was spinning well.

“In the middle session the ball was not hard, so we could not generate that kind of pace from the wicket.

“But I don’t want to take any credit away from their effort. They batted very well.”

Smith had no complaints.

“I haven’t really thought about it,” he said. “We both use the same ball, you just got to do what you can with it.”

Smith admitted he was surprised by how well the pitch played throughout the contest.

“I didn’t expect the game to go five days, certainly before a ball was bowled it didn’t look like it would hold together at all,” he said.

“Credit to the groundsman, the wicket held together beautifully. He said it would last five days and he was correct. It was a really nice wicket.”

-AAP

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