Brad Haddin (left) and Virat Kohli had a verbal duel during the afternoon session of Day Five © Getty Images
Brad Haddin (left) and Virat Kohli had a verbal duel during the afternoon session of Day Five © Getty Images

India managed to eke out a draw against Australia in the third Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG); it was a match which saw superb batting, predictable collapses, and spirited bowling. Shiamak Unwalla recounts some of the highlights of the match.

Steven Smith hammers epic 192: Steven Smith comprehensively stamped his authority on the series with a string of centuries. With 581 runs in the series so far, Smith is comfortably the leading run-scorer of the series. His 192 in the first innings was the difference between a competitive total and a potentially match-winning one. He held the innings together with partnerships with everyone from Shaun Marsh to Nathan Lyon. His 106-run stand with Ryan Harris knocked the stuffing out of India.

Virat Kohli-Ajinkya Rahane fairytale: If there are three batsmen in the Indian line-up you would bet your life on — at least in this series — they would have to be Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane. Each of the three batsmen scored runs, but while Vijay made only 68, Kohli and Rahane thrilled with a partnership reminiscent of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman’s marathon stands against Australia.

The duo were united at 147 for three, and were absolutely unshakable for the better part of the 262-run alliance. Barring a brief period in which Mitchell Johnson got under his skin, Kohli looked every bit the future of India’s batting, while Rahane was absolutely sublime and quietly out-scored Kohli in their partnership. Their partnership saved the game for India in the end; the frequent collapses would have taken centre-stage without it.

Virat Kohli vs Mitchell Johnson: An India-Australia series sans any altercation seems almost a bland affair. The first Test saw a bit of chatter between Varun Aaron, Shikhar Dhawan, and David Warner, and later between Rohit Sharma, Steven Smith, and Kohli, but nothing lasted beyond a few moments. The second Test passed without incident, and the series progressed quite peacefully. All that changed when, on Day Three, Mitchell Johnson threw a ball that was intended for the stumps, but hit Kohli on the leg..

The ball struck Kohli, and riled him up immensely. The conflict that followed between the two lasted well after the end of the day, and spilled through to the rest of the Test. Kohli took on Johnson successfully, hitting a slew of boundaries off the pace bowler; but Johnson had his revenge when he dismissed Kohli off the final ball of the day. Kohli then spoke out against the entire Australian side in the post-match press conference, and even gave Johnson a send-off when the latter was dismissed on Day Four. After India lost a few wickets early in their second innings, the Kohli-Johnson battle again heated up.

Shaun Marsh and KL Rahul have contrasting fortunes: Shaun Marsh — making a Test comeback — had scores of 32, 17, and 32 in his first three innings of the series. He was looking attractive while in the middle, and played solidly; but he kept finding ways to get himself out. In the second innings at MCG, India were in a position of dictating terms to Australia when they had the hosts five down for just 176. Marsh then marshalled the lower order, and ensured that the tail once again defied the visitors. He played resolutely, and scored a composed 99. Unfortunately, he was run out while going for his 100th run.

In contrast, debutant KL Rahul had a forgettable match. He faced 13 balls in the match, was dropped once, played three atrocious shots, and scored only four runs. Promoted to No. 3 in the second innings, he played an ill-advised pull shot off Johnson, and was dismissed. The youngster can take heart from the fact that Ajinkya Rahane had a similarly poor start to his Test career against the same opponents. He is currently India’s third-highest run-scorer in Tests in 2014.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and cricket fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @ShiamakUnwalla)