India hold on for a draw against fast-finishing Australians

Nathan Lyon took the only wicket of the opening session on day five. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Nathan Lyon took the only wicket of the opening session on day five. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Nathan Lyon took the only wicket of the opening session on day five. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Live coverage: Day five

Australia’s weary bowlers toiled and nagged, but India’s emerging batsmen hung on.

“At no stage did we throw in the towel,” summarised India’s captain Virat Kohli after his team fought out a tense draw in the Sydney Test, which meant the Australians had to settle for a two-nil series victory in their own backyard.

Memories of Australia’s last-gasp victory over India at the same ground in 2008 hung in the air. Then, a peroxided Michael Clarke plucked three three wickets in an over with his part time spin, but history did not repeat.

Clarke was in a suit and working for Channel Nine while Steve Smith positioned fielders around the bat, with Nathan Lyon spinning from one end and Mitchell Starc gliding in from the other.

But Lyon could not repeat his match-winning heroics from the first Test and nor could the fast bowlers prise out the last three Indian wickets as Ajinkya Rahane and Bhuvneshwar Kumar batted for the last 12 overs to save the match.

Rahane has had his flighty moments in this series and made an adventurous century at the MCG but he soaked up the pressure in the dying overs here. A pull shot just evaded an outstretched Chris Rogers leg gully. He wafted at a bouncer from Starc before pulling his bat away. But the 26-year-old held his nerve.

India were just two wickets down at tea, needing an improbable 189 to win.

A mini-collapse in the last session dashed India’s hopes of the nation’s first victory on Australian soil since 2008, but the draw was at least some reward for an emerging side that has been led with ambition and adventure by Kohli, who was the key wicket on the last day of the series.

“The first intention was to go for the target but we didn’t get the kind of momentum we maintained in Adelaide because of the way the Australians were bowling, we were not able to keep up with the run rate,” Kohli said.

“The guys showed a lot of character to pull out a draw.

“When Vijay got set  got to a half-century and played a few strokes, that is when we started feeling it might be possible if we have wickets in hand in the last hour. Then when Vijay got out after tea I thought I would take five or six overs and then start pushing. I thought of cashing in, but I didn’t execute properly.”

While the Australians could not finish off India, young fast bowlers Starc and Josh Hazlewood both enhanced their reputations.

Starc went gone some way to proving himself as a Test spearhead in the absence of Mitchell Johnson, the man it is hoped he will one day replace.

He started the Sydney Test with questions swirling about his confidence, his aggression and his pace, but finished it high on all three of those things. He also claimed the wicket of India’s most dangerous batsman, Kohli.

Starc, who collected five wickets for the match in challenging conditions for fast bowlers, displayed express pace, late swing and a touch of mongrel that came out in his fist-pumping celebration to Murali Vijay in the first innings that earned him an official reprimand from the ICC.

It took fellow left-armer Johnson years to harness those qualities in the Test arena and in his absence Starc suggested he could eventually inherit Johnson’s mantle as Australia’s new ball destroyer.

Kohli and Vijay, the two batsmen who have frustrated Australia most on this tour, again led India’s resistance.

Hazlewood bowled with impeccable consistency, surprising the batsmen with the occasional bouncer, and should have had Vijay dismissed on 46, when an lbw appeal was turned down despite the ball being on track to crash into the stumps. The towering paceman broke the partnership soon after tea when Vijay tried to force the ball through the offside and was caught behind for 80.

While Kohli was at the crease, the tourists had some hope. Starc crushed that hope when he coaxed a loose drive from the captain, the edge snaffled by Shane Watson at first slip.

Smith had declared Australia’s second innings closed before play on day five, setting the tourists a target of 349, well beyond the highest successful run chase at the SCG, which is 288.

India finished at 7-252, and watched the Border-Gavaskar Trophy officially pass into Australian hands.

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