RANCHI, India, March 20 (Reuters) - Australia skipper Steve Smith said Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh lived up to his expectations after the middle order batsmen scripted the team’s great escape in the drawn third test against India on Monday.
Smith and overnight batsman Matt Renshaw denied India for about 21 overs before falling in a space of four balls, with the prospect of an innings defeat looming over the tourists.
Right-hander Handscomb and southpaw Marsh bailed out Australia with their nearly four-hour resistance after Smith’s departure had left them reeling at 63-4 on an intriguing final day.
Marsh was dismissed for 53 but Handscomb, who made an unbeaten 72, stayed put to guide Australia to a remarkable draw.
“It wasn’t ideal to lose two set batters at once,” Smith said after the Handscomb-Marsh fifth wicket stand had all but ensured safety for the team.
”That’s one thing we always talk about here in India, in the sub-continent, to try not to lose wickets in clumps. It wasn’t ideal but I have faith in the boys behind me.
”Petey’s looked very good in every game so far without going on to make a score. And today the way he did that, his 70 not out is worth 150 in my eyes. I thought he played beautifully, and Shaun as well.
“They stuck to their plans throughout and never shied away from it. I‘m really proud of the way they did that.”
Smith made unbeaten 178 in the first innings but was beaten by a spinning Ravindra Jadeja delivery that uprooted his off-stump in the second.
“I probably could have got a fraction further down the wicket and used the outside of my pad. I just misjudged it, made a mistake and paid the price,” he said.
Handscomb redeemed himself on Monday, having unwittingly triggered the biggest controversy in the four-match series in the second test.
It was on his advice that Smith gestured to the Australian dressing room in Bengaluru whether to review a leg-before decision. Such decisions are meant to be taken without off-field input and Handscomb subsequently apologised.
Smith admitted to a ‘brain fade’ which drew strong criticism from India captain Virat Kohli, resulting in considerable acrimony between the sides.
Before the third test at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium, both captains met match referee Richie Richardson, promising to uphold the spirit of the game.
Sparks flew more than once in Ranchi but Smith would not complain.
“There’s always a bit of tension when you’re playing Australia-India in test matches,” he said.
“As far I‘m concerned it’s being played in the right spirit out on the field and it’s a hard and tough grind. That’s how I would explain it and no issues with that.” (Editing by Toby Chopra)